Sustained Outrage

A ‘burst of activity’ on protecting workers?

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The website Daily Kos has an interesting piece out that’s headlined, Obama administration breaks through years of delay on new worker protections.  It starts out:

In the three months since Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was confirmed—but not only because of him—the Obama administration has moved forward on a series of new rules to protect workers’ safety and wages and promote hiring of veterans and disabled workers.

Here’s what they describe as a “bust of activity” to protect American workers:

The rules that have been instituted include guidelines for government contractors that seven percent of new hires should be disabled people and eight percent should be veterans and the inclusion of home care workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, entitling them to minimum wage and overtime protections starting in January 2015; a proposal to update silica dust regulations is in a public comment period.

Seriously? I was immediately reminded of the piece published in April 2010 about how then-Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was a “new sheriff” in town to protect workers across our country. Ultimately, though, the first Obama term was certainly a disappointment to worker safety advocates, as we’ve discussed before here, here, and here.

Even a cursory look at the White House Office of Management and Budget website reveals the list of worker safety reforms that remain stalled by this administration:  Protections for electrical transmission line workers, improved injury and illness reporting requirements, and a long list of coal-mine safety rules including reducing dust exposures that cause black lung disease, proximity detection equipment mandates to end pinning and crushing deaths, and toughened civil penalty regulations.

And then there are the rules that agencies themselves haven’t sent to the White House yet … Just look at OSHA’s regulatory agenda:  Regulations to control combustible dust,  limits on exposure to beryllium and a mandate for new injury and illness prevention programs, just to name a couple. Just read Dr. Celeste Monforton’s previous posts on the Pump Handle blog (here and here, for example) to understand how backed up crucial workplace protection rules are in the Obama administration.

Doesn’t seem a bit early to be declaring that there’s been a “breakthrough” on worker safety under President Obama’s latest new sheriff?