Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
If a President or Congress want to dismantle worker protections or other government programs, they don’t have to repeal or change legislation; they can work their damage through the budget process. Slash the budget of a program you don’t like, and those protections no longer exist. Check out the President’s proposed budget in that context.
Thanks to the The Third Way, we have a preview of Trump’s 2018 budget proposal — and his priorities. And as we feared, it ain’t good for workplace safety and health, especially research.Last month, we saw Trump’s “skinny budget.” Now we’re getting a short peek at … the “fat budget?” Or more appropriate for OSHA, the “emaciated budget.” The spreadsheet lists OSHA’s proposed budget at $543,257,000, $9,530,000 less than the FY 17 enacted budget, or a 1.7% cut. We don’t know any of the details, except that the “skinny budget” eliminates OSHA’s $10.5 million Susan Harwood grant program, which could account for the cuts. We also don’t know whether money has been shifted among accounts, for example from Enforcement to Compliance Assistance. Given that OSHA has had a flat, or declining budget since 2010, any further cuts — especially in enforcement — can be devastating for workers. So get ready to put your lobbying shoes on.
NIOSH, on the other hand, is getting whacked — a 40% cut, from $335.2 in FY 2017 down to $200 million in 2018. The is a particularly hard blow for workplace safety and health research, especially on top of the demise of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.
Meanwhile, MSHA’s proposed budget is $375,172 – a bit more than in the FY 2017 omnibus, and just about what they had in FY 2016. The Chemical Safety Board, slated for elimination in the “skinny budget” is budgeted for $8.6 million. This is down from $11 million in FY 2017. It’s not clear whether the Trump administration has changed its mind about eliminating the agency, or if the money is being provided for finishing ongoing operations and winding down the agency. (Funerals are expensive.)
For those interested in how the rest of the DOL budget looks, the answer is “not good.” You may remember that the “skinny budget” proposes cutting $2.5 billion or 21% from the Labor Department‘s budget. Most of those cuts seem to be coming from Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding (WIOA), the government’s main program that provides job training. WIOA would be cut from $3.34 billion in FY 2017 to $1.18 billion in FY 2018. Job Corps would also receive a cut. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which enforces non-descrimination laws and regulations for federal contractors, would receive a 15% cut, reflecting this administration’s disdain for civil rights. (There are also rumors that Trump wants to eliminate OFCCP, folding its responsibilities into the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.) Surprisingly, the Wage and Hour Division seems slated for a slight increase.
What Happens Now?
The good news is that it’s very unlikely that the ultimate budget will look anything like Trump’s proposed budget. The bad news, given the make-up of Congress, is that the final budget could look even worse. And we haven’t yet seen any riders that could prohibit OSHA from spending its money on any programs or protections that Congress decides it doesn’t like.
But if enough pressure is put on Congress, the final budget could also look better. That will be up to you.
Secretary Acosta will be testifying on the President’s proposed budget before the Senate on June 8. I haven’t heard a date for his House hearing yet. There will then be long deliberations in the House and the Senate, and eventually both Houses of Congress will have to come up with a budget that they agree on. Because 60 votes are needed in the Senate, and there are some Republicans who are unlikely to vote for any conceivable budget, Democratic support will be needed in both the House and the Senate. The good news is that that give the Dems quite a bit of leverage. The bad news is that workplace safety and health issues are so small that it’s unlikely they would be important enough to stop an otherwise acceptable budget bill from going forward. And again, that’s where you come in.
Since sometime this side of the stone age, Congress has not been able to complete a budget by the end of the fiscal year, September 30. This year promises to be no exception. So, there will likely be a short term “continuing resolution,” possibly until December or into the new year. That, of course, is unless the President’s wish comes true and we have a government shutdown (which would be in October, not September).
What you can do
As we’ve said before, your Senators and Congresspersons will need to know that there can be no cuts in OSHA, MSHA or NIOSH. And if you live in a district or state with members on the Appropriations Committees, your voice is especially important:
There will be more to say next week when we see Trump’s full budget proposal and we get closer to the hearings, but in the meantime, the message stays the same:
- No funding cuts in OSHA, MSHA or NIOSH.
- 13 workers die every day in American workplaces.
- At current budget levels, OSHA can only inspect every workplace in the United States once every 145 years.
- A strong enforcement program is needed to ensure that low-road employers follow the law. This helps responsible employers – why should they be at a disadvantage competing with law-breakers?
- Mining continues to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Coal miners deserve protection.
- NIOSH performs needed research on best practices, new hazards and needed solutions that help map our way to improved injury and illness prevention
- Fund worker safety and health training — the Harwood Grants
- Harwood grants have trained more than 2.1 million workers in dangerous jobs since 1978.
- Harwood grants provide resources to non-profits (universities, unions, small business associations, worker rights groups) to provide hands-on training to small businesses and vulnerable workers.
- Evaluations have proven them effective in saving lives and preventing injuries and illnesses.
- The program is tiny: less than $11 million, or 0.0002 percent of the overall budget
- No poison pill riders that would block worker safety protections or rights. No riders on silica, injury reporting and anti-retaliation protections.
- Silica causes cancer and serious lung disease.
- About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers
- The Silica standard was issued a year ago and will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.
- Many employers are already implementing the requirements
- Injury Reporting and anti-retaliation
- DOL intends to delay a July 1 deadline when covered employers would be required to send the summary of their workplace injury and illness logs to OSHA
- This information is important for workers and for employers to be able to compare their safety performance with other employers in their industry.
- This regulation also forbids employers from retaliating against workers for reporting an injury or illness.
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