Sustained Outrage

GOP tries to make it harder to protect workers

Fireman battle a fire at AL Solutions after an explosion rocked the plant Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 in New Cumberland, W.Va. Three workers were killed and one person was injured, police and company officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/The Review, Michael D. McElwain)

That’s a photo of the AL Solutions plant in New Cumberland, W.Va., in December 2010, when three workers died in what the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has said was likely an ignition of combustible dust ( here, here, here and here).  It was one of hundreds of such incidents that have killed and injured hundreds of American workers, as Chris Hamby and the Center for Public Integrity have explained.

Those three AL Solutions workers — Jeffrey and James Fish and Steven Swain — were constituents of Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. And over the last few days, Rep. McKinley has helped to ensure that federal workplace safety regulators are going to find it more difficult to protect workers from the dangers of combustible dust. As The Hill explained:

The House approved legislation Thursday afternoon that would prevent the Obama administration from imposing major new federal regulations for two years or until unemployment falls to 6 percent.

The bill would also prevent major new rules from being issued under President Obama between the November election and Inauguration Day — so-called “midnight regulations” — should Obama lose the election.

Members passed the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act, H.R. 4078, in a 245-172 vote in which only 13 Democrats voted with Republicans.

And what exactly was Rep. McKinley’s involvement? See this part of the story:

Under the bill as presented on the floor, rules that are found to cost the economy $100 million or more would be prevented until unemployment falls.

But Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) proposed language lowering that threshold to $50 million, a change the House agreed to in a 240-178 vote.

Here’s Rep. McKinley explaining himself:

We have more than 23 million Americans underemployed or unemployed. This political maneuvering in rulemaking has to stop. The American people sent us here to improve the economy and help them get back to work, but not to allow the promulgation of more questionable, job-hindering regulations.

Rep. McKinley also voted against an amendment proposed by Rep. Miller to clear the way for rules to protect workers from combustible dust — if the Obama administration OSHA ever actually gets around to even proposing those rules. Miller’s amendment failed, even after the congressman argued for it this way:

The workers in this country have a right to rely on the law to protect them, not on some notion of this committee or of this Congress’ sense of compassion and of whether it will be invoked on that given day or not against the lobbying efforts by these industries.

It’s about the law that protects workers and their families–workers who get up and go to work every day, whose families hope they get to come home at night, but it doesn’t happen for a lot of workers. In these industries with combustible dust, it happens over and over and over again. They get killed on the job. I’ve been here a long time working on combustible dust. Let me tell you, the industry doesn’t say, Ah, gee, we’ve killed enough people. Let’s all just kind of hold hands and see if we can come up with something.