We’re only a few days into the new Republican-controlled 118th Congress of the House of Representatives (a.k.a. the Q-Congress), and the war on worker health and safety has already begun.
Foxx and Friends
First, as expected, the Republicans have once again changed the name of the House Education and Labor Committee to the House Committee on Labor and the Workforce.
Because, uh, freedom. And socialism. And union bosses.
“Labor” should stick to the maternity ward, where it belongs.
We don’t yet know who the members of the newly-named Committee will be, but we can pretty much guess they won’t be working class heroes.
Newly minted Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has promised that Republicans will “stop this administration’s reckless and destructive regulatory agenda. In two short years, the Biden administration erected innumerable hurdles to the American Dream, but I am committed to tearing those hurdles down.”
We all know that the best part of the American dream is the freedom to give your life for your employer.
Because we all know that the best part of the American dream is the freedom to give your life for your employer.
While still languishing in the minority last year, Foxx and friends criticized OSHA for holding its Workers Voice Summit labeling it “a pep rally for the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats” and called OSHA’s (yet-to-be-seen) permanent healthcare worker OSHA standard “the height of foolishness,” because what can be more foolish than protecting the countries caregivers — especially after thousands died of COVID-19 contracted on the job.
But really, how important is a human life when your fighting “OSHA’s exploitation of the pandemic as an excuse to increase federal control over the workplace is damaging to America’s workers and job creators?”
Remember. The American Dream.
OSHA is the agency that Republicans and the mega-MAGA-media love to hate, and Republican Congresspersons are already hard at work crafting carefully thought-out legislation that will protect the financial health and safety of low-road employers.
Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) has already introduced H.R. 69 “To abolish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and for other purposes.” We don’t yet have the text of the legislation, but we can guess what’s in it from the title. In 2021, Biggs introduced the ‘‘Nullify Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act’’, which consisted of two sentences:
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is repealed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is abolished.
Biggs may have a chip on his shoulder as he’s from Arizona and OSHA has threatened to rescind Arizona’s state-plan status because the state has continuously refused to adopt federal OSHA standards.
Just in case his point wasn’t made strongly enough, Biggs has also introduced H.R.119 – “To nullify certain executive orders regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to prohibit the Secretary of Labor from issuing a rule mandating vaccination against COVID-19, and for other purposes.”
Expect more craziness in the coming days…
I was at OSHA in 2011 when the Republicans last assumed control of the House, and their attacks on OSHA were underwhelming — high on ideology and low on any facts or substantive arguments. A few general oversight hearings with basically the same theme: OSHA is restricting the freedom of America’s job creators and persecuting small businesses. Every Congressperson who owned a business argued that workers were like family and employers don’t need no stinkin’ federal agency to tell them how to run their business. Regulations were strangling the economy and America’s job creators.
It’s unlikely that there will actually be hearings on abolishing OSHA. That’s far too direct. Better to undermine the agency more subtly. There will likely be attacks on upcoming OSHA standards on COVID-19, heat, violence or infectious diseases. There may be calls to emphasize compliance assistance and voluntary programs over “heavy-handed enforcement” and calls for “cooperation over confrontation.”
It’s unlikely that there will actually be hearings on abolishing OSHA, but there will likely be attacks on upcoming OSHA standards on COVID-19, heat, violence or infectious diseases.
And at every hearing, at least one Republican Congress person would describe how one of his or her constituents was cruelly driven out of business after being fined $5 million by OSHA because the stair railing was half an inch too short and demand that we do something to prevent such atrocities. We would calmly express concern and promise to follow up with their staff to look into matter, but somehow whenever when followed up with their staff, they couldn’t come up with any actual examples.
And, of course, Republican appropriators will attempt to gut OSHA’s measly budget when budget season rolls around again.
House of Representatives operations and funding are weighted heavily toward the majority party — in this case the Republicans. The minority has little time to prepare for hearings and generally, the majority part will have three witnesses at the hearing, while the minority will get only one. What’s left of the Democratic staff will be overworked responding to Republican attacks and hearings. So they’ll need help: stories of workers struggling to protect their health and safety on the job, witnesses that can effectively communicate the need for OSHA and the importance of unions to protect workers’ lives.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Document your experiences. Talk to the media and your local politicians.
And watch this space: It may be a long two years….