Raw Sewage and A Foot per Worker: The Labor Department filed a lawsuit against G Farms in El Mirage, Arizona for housing immigrant workers in “dangerous and unsanitary conditions and paying them illegally low wages,” the LA Times reports. Workers had been living in four yellow school buses and two trailers without windows, where they had less than a foot of space between each bed. The workers were brought into the country legally, under the federal H-2A visa program. “there was no functional sewage system, so wastewater accumulated underneath the container” and “The electrical cord used to light the facility was exposed to standing water, posing a risk of electrocution.” Characteristically, the Labor Department issued no press release and refused to comment.
Money Grubbing Employers = More Injured Workers: OSHA, health and safety professionals and good employers have often touted the “business case” for safety: an investment in safe working conditions means higher profits. Now former CalOSHA official Garrett Brown, writing in the Pump Handle, lays out the “reverse business case” argument: “frantic efforts by “benchmark-beating” employers – increasing employees’ workloads or pressuring them to work faster, at the same time that these employers cut safety spending on activities like maintaining equipment or training employees, to meet the profit projections – are the likely source of increased injuries and illnesses.”
Blankenship to Trump: “Go soft on Corporate Criminals” We recently asked whether a year in prison had rehabilitated Don Blankenship, former Massey owner who was jailed for deaths of 29 coal miners killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion. (Spoiler alert: No.) Now the recently released ex-con is urging the Trump administration “not to support legislation that would lengthen the sentences for any future coal executives convicted of such crimes.” Not sure how Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions feels about this. Sessions just ordered federal prosecutors to throw the book at all drug crime suspects. But I get it. Selling small amounts of marijuana deserves life in prison. But one year in prison is clearly excessive for “conspiring to violate federal mine safety and health standards” leading to the deaths of 29 coal miners.
Do Not Pass Go: And speaking of jail, criminal charges have been filed against the safety coordinator and two other principals of Five Star Plastering in Laguna Beach, California, for the 2014 electrocution of Daniel Pohl, age 23. Pohl was killed instantly when installing a banner just a couple of feet from a 12,000 volt electrical line. He had received no training. If convicted, the Five Star officials face up to three years in prison and $250,000 fines.
OSHA Forcing Employers to Violate the Law? OSHA still has not put up a website allowing employers to report their injury and illness information, despite a deadline rapidly approaching on July 1. Jennifer Gollan at Reveal reports that OSHA’s failure to post the site may be a result of industry resistance to OSHA’s intent to post the data on the OSHA website. The Obama administration had promised that the Website would be up by the end of February so that employer would have plenty of time to figure out how to submit the data. As former OSHA head David Michaels says, ““Law-abiding employers are asking where to send their information in. OSHA is ignoring the law.” I guess that’s what happens when you have an administration that has no problem making life harder for the nation’s businesses that want to do the right thing.
Women Finally Equal to Men! Just in time for Mothers Day, the Onion reports that women have made “Monumental Gains” in workplace equality, according to Labor Secretary Acosta. Women are suffering a suffering a 36% increase in workplace injuries over the last decade, raising the hope that they will soon be injured at work as much as men. Women have seen monumental increases in amputated fingers, concussions, decapitations, spinal cord injuries. Acosta called the findings “A Milestone for Equality!”
Labor Department to Join the Fight Against Satanic Cabal? The Trump administration has been rightfully criticized for the slow pace of its appointments. But maybe it’s better that way. According to BNA’s Ben Penn, the leading candidate for head of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), is Trump advisor Curtis Ellis, who, according to Right Wing Watch, has has written in the past that Democrats are trying to literally exterminate white workers as part of “the radical left’s ethnic cleansing of America,” likened Democratic policies to those of Pol Pot, compared Barack Obama’s economic agenda to Joseph Stalin’s liquidation of the kulaks and believes that a “Luciferian” secret global cabal is attempting to rule the world. In more normal times, ILAB works to ensure that the labor rights parts of international trade agreements are enforced, like ensuring that countries don’t engage in child labor, forced labor or human trafficking. I guess we can now add fighting satanic cabals to that list. I hear they’re bad for workers. (Check out Ben Penn’s Twitter Feed for more.)
I’d Like More Cost-Benefit Analysis, but Hold the Benefits Please: Former DOL official Sharon Block rips into Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney for falsely accusing Obama administration of failing to follow the law by allegedly ignoring the cost side of the regulations that we promulgated. And, of course, the Trump administration acts as if benefits of regulations don’t even exist. Regarding OSHA’s delay in enforcement of the Silica standard, Sharon asks: “I wonder how Mr. Mulvaney would explain to the families of the more than 600 workers whose lives would be saved each year by that rule his Administration’s position that we should ignore the benefit of keeping their loved ones alive in order to focus solely on the dollars that the rule would cost businesses.”