The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing today on the hazards facing warehouse workers: “Unsafe and Untenable: Examining Workplace Protections for Warehouse Workers.”

Testifying were Eric Frumin, Director of Health and Safety for the Strategic Organizing Center, Sheheryar Kaoosji, Executive Director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center in Ontario, CA, Janeth Caicedo, sister of Edilberto Caicedo a temporary worker who was killed in a warehouse in New Jersey, and the perennial Republican witness, Manesh Rath, Partner at Keller & Heckman, who has testified before the Committee more times than Donald Trump has run for President (and even less successfully.)

Democratic witnesses discussed the hazardous conditions in warehouses — musculoskeletal injuries, heat, machinery, etc., the special hazards faced by temporary workers and Amazon’s abysmal safety record which federal and Washington State OSHA are investigating. And a moving account by Janeth Caicedo about the death of her brother and hazards faced by other temp workers.

On the Republican side, we basically heard the same old story that all employers care about their workers, no employer ever wants any worker to get hurt, they’re already dong a splendid job, thank you very much, and the goal of this hearing (and everything else Democrats do) is to just force unwilling workers to get sucked into unions so they can fatten the wallets of the corrupt labor bosses.

It was an interesting and informative hearing and well worth the hour and a half to watch it. (Example: Strategic Organizing Center Director Eric Frumin testified that Amazon workers suffer more serious injuries to warehouse workers than all other warehouses combined.)

You can read the written testimony here,  watch the entire session here, and/or you can read my live-tweets here.

The Last Hearing

Rep. Alma Adams

This was the last OSHA hearing of the House Education Labor Committee, not because the Committee is being abolished, but because when Republicans take over, they will rename that committee the Education and Workforce committee. They’ve done this every time they’ve taken the majority ever since the good old Gingrich days in 1995, even though it had been the Education and Labor Committee since 1867. And then the Dems change the name back when they re-take the majority. You can read my previous discussions of the name-change-game here, here and here.

Why “workforce”? As I wrote after the 2007 change-back, the late New York Times columnist William Safire explained that the term “Labor” is so objectionable to the delicate Republicans because it conjures up frightening images of “Big Labor” and dreaded unions who support evil Democrats. Better to go over the labor bosses’ heads to all workers, including those not represented by unions.


If Labor was to be replaced, then with what? Not workers; that word is associated with socialism (International Workers of the World (sic), or “wobblies”) and communism (in its manifesto, “Workers of the World — Unite”). But there was another term, coined in 1931, during what revisionist Republicans considered the unfairly maligned Hoover administration: workforce. Most dictionaries gave it two senses (and make it two words): “all employees collectively, or those doing work in a particular firm or industry.”

So let’s raise a toast for Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Alma Adams (D-NC), Chair of the full committee and chair of the workforce protections subcommittee respectively. I worked for them for two years and there are no stronger champions of workers and the right of workers to organize, be treated decently and work in safe workplaces.  The hearings they held revealed the struggles that American workers experience and the legislation they passed would have significantly improved the lives of workers in this country if more of it had made it to the President’s desk.

And they will have the unenviable task over the next couple of years of pushing back on Republican attempts to roll back workers’ rights — with a much-reduced staff to help them out.

So stay tuned

For the next two years, if the Republicans hold any OSHA hearings at all, they’ll most likely focus on how unelected pasty-faced socialist bureaucrats in gestapo-like agencies like OSHA are oppressing small businesses and encouraging forced unionization by enforcing the law, instead of just cooperating with employers to make their workplaces even safer than they already are, because no one — no one! — cares about their workers team members more than their employers who treat them like family and would keep their workplaces much safer if they didn’t have to waste money on unfair penalties, complying with costly and ineffective job-killing regulations and legal battles against illegal searches and seizures by jack-booted OSHA inspectors who are trying to wreck capitalism and usher a socialist dictatorship.

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