Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
Do Not Pass go: The New York Times reports that “the owner of two Brooklyn construction companies was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday because the authorities said he ignored complaints about a poorly maintained retaining wall that collapsed at a work site in 2015, killing an 18-year-old laborer and injuring two others.”
Small Farms Don’t Need No Stinkin’ OSHA Protections: The Ohio Valley Resource reports in a written story as well as a radio piece about the dangers of work on a small farm and the fact that OSHA is not allowed set foot on a small from, even if a worker complains or if there have been fatalities. The former Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA is interviewed. “I don’t think OSHA is set up to regulate safety on small farms,” according to Farm Bureau spokesperson Paul Schlegal. That’s what they used to say about bloodborne pathogens as well.
Workers Have Right to More Repetitive Motion Injuries: Celeste Monforton at the Pump Handle reports that U.S. poultry companies “are being handcuffed” by a rule that set the maximum processing line speed at 140 birds per minute, according to Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Colins asserts “potential risk to workers’ health from faster production lines…are not rooted in physical evidence,” but Monforton reminds us that workers in poultry processing plants suffer from a staggering high number of amputations and hospitalizations, and the rate of illnesses, such as repetitive motion injuries, is seven times the national average. Increasing line speeds in poultry processing plants will make a bad situation worse for workers.
Construction in the South: Booming industry, Growing Hazards: A group of workers rights organizations have published a report, Build a Better South, on working condition in the construction industry in the South. The survey, conducted by The Workers Defense Fund, the Partnership for Working Families and the University of Illinois at Chicago, looked at working conditions in six southern cities. Among the findings: “One in seven workers have been injured during their construction career, and more than one in three of these workers has suffered an injury in the past 12 months. Just 5% of workers who were injured in the past 12 months had workers’ compensation insurance to cover their medical expenses. Non-fatal injuries among construction workers in the six cities cost an estimated $1.47 billion annually in medical expenses, lost wages, lost productivity, lawsuits, and the cost of caring for injured workers while they recover.”
DOL to Miners: “Good luck and God bless: The Labor Department has for a second time delayed an MSHA rule issued on the last day of the Obama administration that would have required metal/non-metal mine owners to ensure that the mines were safe before miners go to work and inform workers if there are any hazardous conditions. According to the Department of Labor, “This extension offers additional time for MSHA to provide stakeholders training and compliance assistance.” The Department already extended the effective date for 60 days, until May 23, and now has extended it until October 2.
Shut Up, or Else: Despite legal protections a new report from shows that workers who complain suffer retaliation anyway. “The study finds that among employees who dared to speak up about workplace injustices like unsafe conditions, wage theft, injuries, sexual harassment and discrimination, 58 percent experienced retaliation. Of workers who reported legal violations to regulatory agencies like the Illinois Department of Labor, Department of Human Rights, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 80 percent said their employer retaliated against them.” The report, Challenging the Business of Fear, was prepared by Raise the Floor Alliance, which is a coalition of Chicago worker centers, and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI).
What’s Up, DOL? Paul Feldman at Fair Warning writes about how Senators are wondering what’s up with OSHA not issuing enforcement-related press releases, as well as why OSHA is delaying important worker protections against he hazard of silica and beryllium.
Civil Rights: Making America Mediocre Again: Juliett Eilperin at the Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is undermining civil rights protections across the federal government. The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, eliminate EPA’s Environmental Justice program, severely cut the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, stopped challenging a controversial voter identification laws and reverse several steps taken under Obama to address LGBT concerns. White House spokeswoman Kelly Love: “The Trump administration has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans.”
Pretty Please? Benn Penn at Bloomberg BNA discusses the difficulty that Secretary of Labor Acosta is having recruiting private sector attorneys to the top jobs at the Labor Department. A drastic cut in pay, a post-work lobbying ban, grueling confirmation process and possible damage to your reputation after working for a mercurial and crazy President. And one thing not mentioned by Penn, these jobs are a hell of a lot of hard work with no perks. “In a more traditional Republican or Democrat administration, there is virtually always a long line of people out the door eager to take just about any presidentially appointed position that the administration has to offer,” Paul DeCamp, administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division under President George W. Bush, told Bloomberg BNA.”
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