Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order https://www.scienceblogs.com/ en Occupational Health News Roundup https://www.scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2017/03/08/occupational-health-news-roundup-241 <span>Occupational Health News Roundup</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>At the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/the-department-of-labor-under-trump/518307/" target="_blank"><em>Atlantic Monthly</em></a>, Alana Semuels interviews David Weil, who served as administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division under President Obama, on his time at DOL and the future of labor under Trump.</p> <p>On Obama’s effect, Weil told Semuels:</p> <blockquote><p><strong>Semuels:</strong><strong> </strong>What specifically changed in the Department of Labor under Obama?</p> <p><strong>Weil:</strong><strong> </strong>One of the things Obama did from the beginning was to fight hard to get resources for his enforcement agencies. He came in and the number of investigators in the Wage and Hour Division was barely 700 nationally—and it is responsible for 7.3 million workplaces. He fought hard to get it up to 1,000, and he did that in the first two years, when there was Democratic control of the House and Senate.</p></blockquote> <p>On government oversight:</p> <blockquote><p><strong>Semuels:</strong><strong> </strong>Many Republicans, including those in the current administration, say that workers will do better if the government meddles less with business. What’s your take on that?</p> <p><strong>Weil:</strong><strong> </strong>There are decades of evidence and some very recent studies in a lot of different areas that show that labor markets are not textbook, freely operating, perfectly competitive mechanisms for resource allocation. There’s an incredibly important role for government to play. It’s not exclusive; it’s not like government can solve all the problems of the labor market. And I don’t believe businesses are evil—businesses create a lot of value and create opportunity for workers. But business behavior has to be bounded by certain social norms about what we regard as acceptable behavior.</p></blockquote> <p>On the future:</p> <blockquote><p><strong>Semuels:</strong><strong> </strong>What are some of the ways the Department of Labor could change under President Trump?</p> <p><strong>Weil:</strong><strong> </strong>We have to see what the Trump budget looks like—what will they be allocating to the whole range of programs in the Department of Labor? What is the message that's going to be sent about how serious they are about that?</p> <p>It is not clear yet what this administration really means to do for the forgotten worker that Trump as a candidate talked endlessly about. Certainly the signal they sent for the first nominee (Andrew Puzder) was: Not much.</p></blockquote> <p>Read the full interview at the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/the-department-of-labor-under-trump/518307/" target="_blank"><em>Atlantic Monthly</em></a>.</p> <p>In other news:</p> <p><a href="http://www.fairwarning.org/2017/03/u-s-labor-department-puts-cone-silence-enforcement-news/" target="_blank">Fair Warning</a>: Paul Feldman reports that since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, OSHA hasn’t issued one, single news release about enforcement actions by federal officials. That’s in stark contrast to months just prior — for example, OSHA issued more than 30 enforcement news releases in November and more than 50 between Dec. 1 and just before the inauguration. Enforcement news releases related to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division have also disappeared. Feldman writes: “Neither (David) Michaels nor (Jordan) Barab (both OSHA officials under Obama), however, said that they have seen evidence of inspections being halted by OSHA. In addition, an official still at the Labor Department said, ‘We’re definitely still out there doing our cases, doing our litigations. … That stuff is definitely still going on. It’s just being able to tell the world about it that’s the struggle.’”</p> <p><a href="http://www.mystatesman.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/texas-lawmakers-seek-momentum-for-farmworker-housing-bills/EBqz20EH6eXhVN4wbE1CvJ/" target="_blank"><em>Austin American-Statesman</em></a>: Jeremy Schwartz reports on bills introduced in the Texas Legislature aimed at improving housing conditions for migrant farmworkers. The bills call for stricter housing inspections, tough penalties for violators, and greater efforts to uncover unlicensed worker housing. While the proposed bills don’t ask for new funding for inspections, it does ask that the state dedicate any penalties collected back to inspection efforts. Last year, the newspaper published an <a href="http://specials.mystatesman.com/farmworker-housing/" target="_blank">investigation</a> into farmworker housing, finding that Texas spends “next to nothing” to make sure workers are provided with safe and decent housing. Schwartz writes of the newly proposed legislation: “In 2015, Texas spent less than $2,500 to conduct about 40 inspections of housing facilities provided by growers and labor contractors, most clustered in cotton-growing regions of the Panhandle. As a result, an estimated 9 in 10 Texas migrant farmworkers lack access to licensed housing that meets minimum health and safety standards required by state and federal law.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-republicans-vote-to-nullify-one-of-obamas-workplace-safety-rules_us_58b5dd1be4b060480e0c78a1" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a>: Dave Jamieson and Laura Barron-Lopez report on House Republicans’ vote to roll back an Obama-era workplace injury reporting rule. The rule, issued in December, required employers to maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illness and gave OSHA up to five years after an injury occurs to cite employers for failing to document such incidents. While the rule didn’t actually institute any new reporting rules — essentially enforcing what’s already on the books — Republican leaders characterized the rule as an OSHA power grab. The effort to withdraw the rule now moves to the Senate. Jamieson and Barron-Lopez write: “It may not sound like a big deal, but lasting and accurate records are crucial to OSHA’s mission: They allow the agency to pinpoint recurring hazards at dangerous employers and industries, and they help officials figure out where to target their limited resources.” In related <a href="https://www.publicintegrity.org/2017/03/07/20748/senate-votes-kill-obama-contractor-rule" target="_blank">news</a>, the Senate also just voted to roll back the Obama-era rule requiring those bidding for lucrative federal contracts to disclose recent labor violations.</p> <p><a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/opinions/lawsuits-against-minimum-wage-increase-schleifer/" target="_blank">CNN</a>: In an opinion piece, Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the Fairness Project, writes that successful state ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage are under threat by lobbyists and trade associations pushing to repeal the will of voters. For example, Arizona voters approved a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020 and guarantee paid sick leave. However, business interests, such as Chambers of Commerce, are filing a lawsuit to stop the wage hike. Another example: In Washington state, lawyers from the National Federation of Independent Business are suing, claiming that a successful wage hike vote shouldn’t have been on the ballot in the first place. Schleifer writes: “Although these days it seems all eyes are on Washington, D.C., we can't lose sight of what's happening to everyday Americans in these states. Powerful forces are attempting to erode our democracy, and that affects real lives.”</p> <p><em>Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years.</em></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/kkrisberg" lang="" about="/author/kkrisberg" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">kkrisberg</a></span> <span>Wed, 03/08/2017 - 10:07</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/agriculture" hreflang="en">agriculture</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/department-labor" hreflang="en">department of labor</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/farm-workers" hreflang="en">farm workers</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/government" hreflang="en">government</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/labor-rights" hreflang="en">labor rights</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/legal" hreflang="en">Legal</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-work" hreflang="en">low-wage work</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occup-health-news-roundup" hreflang="en">Occup Health News Roundup</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-health-safety" hreflang="en">Occupational Health &amp; Safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/osha" hreflang="en">OSHA</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/paid-leave" hreflang="en">paid leave</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/public-health-general" hreflang="en">Public Health - General</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/safety" hreflang="en">safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/enforcement" hreflang="en">Enforcement</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces-executive-order" hreflang="en">Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/farmworker-housing" hreflang="en">farmworker housing</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-workers" hreflang="en">low-wage workers</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/minimum-wage" hreflang="en">Minimum Wage</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-health" hreflang="en">Occupational health</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-safety" hreflang="en">occupational safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/paid-sick-leave" hreflang="en">paid sick leave</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/public-health" hreflang="en">public health</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/wage-theft" hreflang="en">wage theft</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/worker-safety" hreflang="en">worker safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/workplace-safety" hreflang="en">Workplace Safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/agriculture" hreflang="en">agriculture</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/labor-rights" hreflang="en">labor rights</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-work" hreflang="en">low-wage work</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/paid-leave" hreflang="en">paid leave</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/safety" hreflang="en">safety</a></div> </div> </div> <section> <article data-comment-user-id="0" id="comment-1874269" class="js-comment comment-wrapper clearfix"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1488989858"></mark> <div class="well"> <strong></strong> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Thank goodness for that bill in Texas or this would be just the most depressing post.</p> <p>This election and its consequences is going to take years off our collective life expectancy, isn't it?</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1874269&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="K_aea2M6HA-8xDjVpPROOmu6M7zx6g0HMfxnVGDcbp4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <em>By <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">JustaTech (not verified)</span> on 08 Mar 2017 <a href="https://www.scienceblogs.com/taxonomy/term/13923/feed#comment-1874269">#permalink</a></em> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0" hreflang="und"><img src="/files/styles/thumbnail/public/default_images/icon-user.png?itok=yQw_eG_q" width="100" height="100" alt="User Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> </footer> </article> </section> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-forbidden"><a href="/user/login?destination=/thepumphandle/2017/03/08/occupational-health-news-roundup-241%23comment-form">Log in</a> to post comments</li></ul> Wed, 08 Mar 2017 15:07:28 +0000 kkrisberg 62806 at https://www.scienceblogs.com Rollback of Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order is ‘opening salvo of the war on workers’ https://www.scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2017/02/07/rollback-of-fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces-order-is-opening-salvo-of-the-war-on-workers <span>Rollback of Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order is ‘opening salvo of the war on workers’</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Not violating federal labor law seems like a commonsense precursor for being awarded lucrative federal contracts. House Republicans, however, disagree.</p> <p>Last week, majority members in the House of Representatives successfully passed a resolution to get rid of federal disclosure requirements included in President Barack Obama’s <a href="https://www.dol.gov/asp/fairpayandsafeworkplaces/" target="_blank">Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order</a>, which he originally signed in 2014. Those disclosure requirements directed businesses bidding for federal contracts of $500,000 or more to report any violations of 14 labor laws within the prior three years. Among those 14 laws are the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the National Labor Relations Act, a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Now that the repeal effort has passed the House, it moves on to the Senate.</p> <p>Republicans were able to do this using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which passed in the mid-1990s and allows Congress to get rid of regulations that have taken effect within the last 60 legislative days. The CRA is very rarely used; in fact, the last time Congress wielded it effectively was in 2001 to overturn OSHA's ergonomics rules. The Department of Labor previously described the need for the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces' disclosure rules like this:</p> <blockquote><p>While the vast majority of federal contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are unlawfully denied overtime wages, discriminated against in hiring or pay, put in physical danger on the job, or otherwise denied basic workplace protections by the federal contractors who employ them using taxpayer dollars. Taxpayer dollars should not reward companies that break the law, and contractors who meet their legal responsibilities should not have to compete with those who do not.</p></blockquote> <p>Debbie Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said the point of the executive order was to encourage companies to come into compliance before bidding for federal contracts. In fact, she told me that the order doesn’t even deprive companies that have violated the law from bidding or receiving a big federal contract. It simply requires disclosure of previous violations and even offers a process by which bidders can come into full compliance with these fairly basic labor laws. But because policymakers used the CRA to go after the order — and assuming the Senate and president follow House Republicans’ lead — it’ll mean the Labor Department can’t issue similar regulations unless Congress gives its permission.</p> <p>Unfortunately, advocates such as Berkowitz worry that axing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order is just a taste of the much larger assault on worker health and safety that's to come.</p> <p>“Congress is completely giving in to the power of big corporations here,” Berkowitz said. “This is the opening salvo of the war on workers and the first big test of President Trump on whether he’ll stand up for workers.”</p> <p><strong>What’s at stake for worker health and safety?</strong></p> <p>The simple answer is a lot.</p> <p>But to help us gauge just how much we have to lose on that front, NELP recently issued a <a href="http://www.nelp.org/publication/worker-safety-and-health-in-the-obama-years-an-exemplary-record/" target="_blank">short policy brief</a> on gains during the Obama years. Let’s start with the basic numbers: Under Obama, workplace fatalities went down. In particular, the brief noted that the rate of workers being killed on the job dropped from 3.7 per 100,000 workers in 2008 to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2015. That translates to an average of 4,747 workers who lost their lives on the job each year from 2013 to 2015, compared to an average of 5,570 workers who lost their lives every year from 2006 to 2008. At the Mine Safety and Health Administration, according to the brief, workplace fatalities in the nation’s mines reached a record low during the Obama years.</p> <p>On OSHA enforcement, the brief noted that after thinning resources during the George W. Bush years, the Obama administration and its partners in Congress allocated enough funding to add more than 200 people to OSHA’s staff. Even with the increase, it would still take OSHA more than a century to visit every workplace under its jurisdiction. That’s why during the Obama years, the Labor Department zeroed in on particularly egregious lawbreakers, directing their limited resources at employers with a history of serious and willful violations. One example of that effort is OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which it established in 2010. In a 2013 agency <a href="https://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/svep_white_paper.pdf" target="_blank">white paper</a> on SVEP progress, OSHA wrote:</p> <blockquote><p>On June 18, 2010, OSHA instituted the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) to more effectively focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act. The program replaced the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP), an earlier program that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found to be an inefficient and ineffective means of identifying and addressing the most severe violators. …</p> <p>Following a preliminary evaluation of the new program’s initial 18 months in operation, OSHA has found that SVEP is already meeting certain key goals, including a significant increase in follow-up inspections and enhanced settlements. The program has succeeded in guiding OSHA enforcement toward recalcitrant employers by targeting high-emphasis hazards, facilitating inspections across multiple worksites of employers found to be recalcitrant, and by providing Regional and State Plan offices with a nationwide referral procedure.</p></blockquote> <p>This is important because OSHA’s enforcement efforts can serve as a critical insight into how an administration values and prioritizes worker safety. It gives us an opportunity to gauge whether an administration’s commitment to job creation includes jobs that don’t put workers at risk of preventable injury and illness for the sake of greater profits. In general, Berkowitz said the Obama administration viewed workplace injuries as events that could be prevented through safer workplace conditions, better training and compliance with OSHA regulations. Under Obama, OSHA could follow the data, which led it to focus on the most dangerous industries, the most vulnerable workers and the most recalcitrant employers. For example, Berkowitz reminded me, OSHA launched initiatives specifically for Latino workers as well as temporary workers in light of data showing both worker populations faced disproportionate workplace risks and abuses.</p> <p>That was a marked practice shift from the previous administration, which focused much more on applauding workplaces with good safety records to the detriment of focusing on workplaces with poor safety records. Berkowitz said she expects to see a big drop in OSHA’s enforcement capacity under Trump. She also noted that the administration could easily get rid of a program like SVEP.</p> <p>“Enforcement is where I think we’ll see the biggest swing coming,” she said. “I think we’ll see a shift away from enforcement toward exempting more employers from inspections and providing more resources for giving workplaces (accolades) if they have good safety records. …It’s a shame because enforcement is critical. It makes a difference, it works, it saves workers’ lives and it saves employers money.”</p> <p><strong>‘Radical departure from the commitment to protecting workers’</strong></p> <p>Beyond enforcement, OSHA also made progress in protecting whistleblowers and ensuring state-run worker safety programs were at least as effective as federal OSHA, according to NELP.</p> <p>For example, OSHA under Obama amped up its efforts to protect workers who were retaliated against for speaking out about harmful workplace conditions. During the last three years of Obama’s presidency, the number of cases with a positive outcome for workers who experienced such retaliation was double that of a comparable period of time under the Bush administration, the brief reported. In addition, the amount of money awarded to workers who were retaliated against almost tripled.</p> <p>Still, the brief noted that with more than 4,800 workers killed on the job in 2015, “more work is left to be done.” The brief drove that need home with this story:</p> <blockquote><p>Just this summer, for example, a young woman, two weeks away from her wedding, was working at an auto parts plant in Alabama when the assembly line stopped and she and three of her co-workers entered a robotic station to clear a sensor fault. The robot restarted abruptly, crushing to death the young woman inside the machine. An investigation by OSHA found that the company exposed her to a life-threatening danger and completely failed to protect her — they never developed or implemented the procedures for preventing machines from starting up when workers are inside. This is one of the oldest and most basic of all safety rules. OSHA levied more than $2.5 million in fines on both Ajin USA (the plant owner) and the two staffing agencies that provided workers to the plant.</p> <p>This story — which is one among thousands in 2016 — should send a clear message to the incoming administration that strong enforcement of safety rules is a must to safeguard America’s workers. But Andrew Puzder, (President) Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor, has spent years railing against regulations — especially those that protect America’s workers and the middle class. He speaks often of a cost-benefit analysis that gives short shrift to the value of the lives and health of workers.</p></blockquote> <p>On <a href="http://www.nelp.org/campaign/opposing-the-anti-labor-secretary/" target="_blank">Puzder</a>, Berkowitz told me: “They’ve nominated somebody who clearly shows that he’s hostile to the interests of low-wage and middle-wage workers. I think he has no concept of the kinds of dangers workers face in industry and that they can be prevented through better training and safer practices.” (Puzder’s confirmation hearing has been delayed multiple times.)</p> <p>Berkowitz said despite the troubling outlook at the federal level, she expects states and localities will continue moving forward to promote safer working conditions, living wages and equitable workplace policies. Federally, she predicts worker health and safety will end up on the chopping block.</p> <p>“I think we’re going to see huge budget cuts — I have no doubt about that,” Berkowitz said. “We’re going to see a radical departure from the commitment to protecting workers…and it’s never good for workers when OSHA rolls back enforcement. If workers can’t count on OSHA to cite an employer who’s endangering their safety, then there’s no real protection for workers.”</p> <p>To download a copy of the NELP brief, click <a href="http://www.nelp.org/publication/worker-safety-and-health-in-the-obama-years-an-exemplary-record/" target="_blank">here</a>. For advocacy resources on the Puzder nomination, visit <a href="http://antilaborsecretary.org" target="_blank">http://antilaborsecretary.org</a>.</p> <p><em>Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years.</em></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/kkrisberg" lang="" about="/author/kkrisberg" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">kkrisberg</a></span> <span>Tue, 02/07/2017 - 07:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/government" hreflang="en">government</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/labor-rights" hreflang="en">labor rights</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/legal" hreflang="en">Legal</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-work" hreflang="en">low-wage work</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/mining" hreflang="en">Mining</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-fatalities" hreflang="en">occupational fatalities</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-health-safety" hreflang="en">Occupational Health &amp; Safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/osha" hreflang="en">OSHA</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/public-health-general" hreflang="en">Public Health - General</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/regulation" hreflang="en">regulation</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/safety" hreflang="en">safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/donald-trump" hreflang="en">Donald Trump</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces-executive-order" hreflang="en">Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-workers" hreflang="en">low-wage workers</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/minimum-wage" hreflang="en">Minimum Wage</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-health" hreflang="en">Occupational health</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-safety" hreflang="en">occupational safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/prevention" hreflang="en">Prevention</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/public-health" hreflang="en">public health</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/puzder" hreflang="en">Puzder</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/severe-violater-enforcement-program" hreflang="en">Severe Violater Enforcement Program</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/worker-fatality" hreflang="en">worker fatality</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/worker-safety" hreflang="en">worker safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/workplace-safety" hreflang="en">Workplace Safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/labor-rights" hreflang="en">labor rights</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/low-wage-work" hreflang="en">low-wage work</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/mining" hreflang="en">Mining</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/regulation" hreflang="en">regulation</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/safety" hreflang="en">safety</a></div> </div> </div> <section> <article data-comment-user-id="0" id="comment-1874247" class="js-comment comment-wrapper clearfix"> <mark class="hidden" data-comment-timestamp="1486476130"></mark> <div class="well"> <strong></strong> <div class="field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>How many of the people voting to roll back things like Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces have ever worked in a place that might be dangerous, difficult or dirty? How many of them have ever had their pay illegally withheld?</p> <p>Maybe a few days on an assembly line would teach them a few things.</p> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=1874247&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="GKAm4hBPhPYNBUOlfZyT-MTrnGC7lG51jPO0iEr5ybY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> <footer> <em>By <span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">JustaTech (not verified)</span> on 07 Feb 2017 <a href="https://www.scienceblogs.com/taxonomy/term/13923/feed#comment-1874247">#permalink</a></em> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0"> <div class="field field--name-user-picture field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <a href="/user/0" hreflang="und"><img src="/files/styles/thumbnail/public/default_images/icon-user.png?itok=yQw_eG_q" width="100" height="100" alt="User Image" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </a> </div> </article> </footer> </article> </section> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-forbidden"><a href="/user/login?destination=/thepumphandle/2017/02/07/rollback-of-fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces-order-is-opening-salvo-of-the-war-on-workers%23comment-form">Log in</a> to post comments</li></ul> Tue, 07 Feb 2017 12:52:52 +0000 kkrisberg 62785 at https://www.scienceblogs.com Labor-law violations and the kind of economic climate we encourage https://www.scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2016/10/31/labor-law-violations-and-the-kind-of-economic-climate-we-encourage <span>Labor-law violations and the kind of economic climate we encourage</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Last week, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas <a href="https://www.dol.gov/asp/fairpayandsafeworkplaces/20161026CourtOrder.pdf">temporarily enjoined</a> provisions of the Obama Administration’s <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/31/executive-order-fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces">Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executiv Order</a> (EO 13673), which would require companies bidding on federal contracts worth more than $500,000 to report whether or not they have been cited in the last three years for labor law violations. (In their initial bid, they simply have to check a box to say whether or not this is the case.) This temporary stay will be in effect until the court decides the case brought by Associated Builders and Contractors of Southeast Texas et al., which claimed harm to companies that bid on federal contracts.</p> <p>As <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2015/06/03/blacklisting-hardly-congressmen-exaggerate-obamas-executive-order-for-government-contractors/">Celeste noted last year</a> when Republican Members of Congress complained about this executive order, nothing in the EO or the related guidance document says firms that disclose such citations will be ineligible to bid on federal contracts. Those that move on to the pre-award stage (i.e., are under consideration for the contract) will have to provide additional information, she explained:</p> <blockquote><p>If a company disclosed that they have been cited in the last three years for a labor law violation, they would be asked to provide additional information about the violation(s). The additional information would be items such as a copy of the citation, the docket number, the decision that was rendered, and how they corrected the violation. The proposed guidance acknowledges that a company may have contested or challenged a violation. It says: the Administration understands that a company “may raise good-faith disputes” about labor law violations. A firm could submit such information to the government’s contracting official about their rationale for challenging the violation and status of the contest.</p></blockquote> <p>The executive order came in response to an existing problem, wrote <a href="http://nelp.org/commentary/fed-contracts-only-for-those-who-respect-workplace-laws/">Debbie Berkowitz of the National Employment Law Project</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Incredibly, under our broken federal procurement system, the government regularly awards contracts to companies with serious violations of worker protection laws. These include a lack of safety protections in poultry processing plants or chemical plants resulting in amputations and worker fatalities; wage theft where companies fail to pay legally required minimum wage rates or overtime; and sexual harassment and employment discrimination.</p> <p>Even companies with the most egregious violations continue to receive federal contracts. One such company, where four workers were killed in a horrific incident, was recently blasted by officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who said the workers “would be alive today had their employer taken steps to protect them.”</p> <p>According to a 2013 <a href="http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Labor%20Law%20Violations%20by%20Contractors%20Report.pdf">U.S. Senate report</a>, almost 30 percent of companies charged with the highest penalties for federal labor law violations are also federal contractors.</p></blockquote> <p>An assumption undergirding many US regulations and procurement policies is that we want to support small businesses. Companies are exempt from some <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/02/05/171078451/fmla-not-really-working-for-many-employees">requirements</a> or <a href="https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&amp;p_id=1519#ENFOR">enforcement activities</a> if they’re small, presumably because the potential harm their employees is outweighed by the value to the economy from allowing people to form small businesses. We accept a certain amount of inefficiency in federal procurement – for instance, requiring National Institutes of Health grantees to get multiple bids for new lab equipment rather than just going back to the same company they’ve used before – because we want to give less-established businesses a chance to compete and flourish.</p> <p>If we’re going to say federal regulations and procurement policies should promote a climate that allows entrepreneurs to build small businesses, I’d like to see us extend that philosophy to allowing businesses with safe workplaces to flourish. There’s an economic as well as ethical rationale for this: <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2012/12/13/occupational-injuries-and-illnesses-in-low-wage-workers-cost-the-us-39-million-in-2010/">occupational injuries and illnesses cost the US billions each year</a>.</p> <p>The Fifth Circuit may well find that the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order violates existing laws. (Given that District Judge Martha Cone’s injunction contains the statement “it is settled in this circuit that government contractors are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other citizens,” a judgment against the EO seems likely.) If that’s the outcome, I hope Congress will pass new laws that give as much deference to businesses that respect worker health and safety as we currently give to small businesses.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/lborkowski" lang="" about="/author/lborkowski" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lborkowski</a></span> <span>Mon, 10/31/2016 - 13:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/occupational-health-safety" hreflang="en">Occupational Health &amp; Safety</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/eo-13673" hreflang="en">EO 13673</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/fair-pay-and-safe-workplaces-executive-order" hreflang="en">Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tag/procurement" hreflang="en">procurement</a></div> </div> </div> <section> </section> <ul class="links inline list-inline"><li class="comment-forbidden"><a href="/user/login?destination=/thepumphandle/2016/10/31/labor-law-violations-and-the-kind-of-economic-climate-we-encourage%23comment-form">Log in</a> to post comments</li></ul> Mon, 31 Oct 2016 17:52:29 +0000 lborkowski 62721 at https://www.scienceblogs.com