Just got word that President Trump (yes, that President Trump) will be visiting the Department of Labor Next Wednesday, where he “will announce policy initiatives that this Administration will pursue to narrow the skills gap and to ensure that all Americans have good, safe jobs.”
Secretary of Labor Acosta sent a memo to Department staff stating that:
Over the last several months, many CEOs have told me they are eager to fill job vacancies but cannot find workers with the right skills. Today in the United States, there are 6 million job vacancies and 6.9 million unemployed workers in the economy – indicating that perhaps our most critical challenge is educating American workers with the skills they need to participate in an ever-changing, fast-moving economy.
One initiative may be bake sales considering the President has proposed a budget that will would slash job training funds by more than one-third and cut $218 million (or 13%) from Job Corps, thereby closing some Job Corps Centers. There are rumors that he’s going to announce some kind of new apprenticeship program — which will presumably cost no money.
Acosta’s announcement mentions that some of the President’s initiatives will also ensure that “all Americans have good, safe jobs.” Personally, I don’t think that job safety will make it on the list of initiatives. Will the President be able to argue with a straight face that rolling back beryllium, or silica, or recordkeeping protections will help workers or create safe jobs?
But no one knew how incredibly complicated protecting workers was, so just in case he’s actually serious about safe job initiatives, here are some helpful suggestions:
- OSHA is working on some important worker protections dealing with infectious diseases, process safety management, workplace violence and combustible dust. He could announce an initiative to accelerate rulemaking on those issues and exempt them from his “one regulation in/two regulations out” Executive Order.
- If he wants more initiatives that will ensure that American workers have safe jobs, he could also announce rulemaking on ergonomics, which still causes one-third of workplace injuries.
- He could announce that he is proposing legislation that would make it easier for OSHA to update its chemical hazards. OSHA currently regulates over 500 chemicals, but most of those are based on science from the 1950’s and 1960’s. It takes years to update any single standard, much less new standards for the thousands of chemicals added to the workplace over the last 45 years.
Of course, it is not clear that anyone will attend the presentation. Acting Deputy Secretary Ed Hugler announced that no one outside of DOL employees and contractors will be allowed in Frances Perkins Building (FPB) that day (including meetings with outside people) and “employees who work in or park at the FPB are strongly encouraged” to take advantage of unscheduled leave or telework that day.
So who knows, maybe everyone will take Hugler up on his strong encouragement and work from home that day.
In any case, whatever happens, we know that it will be the largest crowd to ever view an event in the history of the Department of Labor.