Workers at Risk from USDA's Proposed Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule

by Katie Tracy | May 01, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) proposed a rule on Feb. 1 to alter inspection procedures for hog slaughter plants by revoking the existing cap on maximum line speeds and transferring key inspection tasks from USDA inspectors to private plant workers. These changes to current practices raise numerous concerns for worker health and safety, all of which the agency fails to address in the proposal. 

Because of these concerns, Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars Martha McCluskey, Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, and I sent comments to the agency on April 30, urging it to go back to the drawing board and account for the considerable worker health and safety risks its proposal creates before moving forward.  

Meatpacking workers endure some of the most dangerous working conditions in the nation. Workers are exposed to cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions. Because these jobs require thousands of forceful repetitive motions per shift, musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel and shoulder injuries are rampant across the industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking workers experience injuries at a rate of 4.3 injuries per 100 workers, compared to the national average of 2.8 injuries per 100 workers. 

Despite the awful working conditions, USDA is proposing to revoke the existing cap that dictates the maximum speed at which plants can operate their lines, exposing workers to a greater risk of ...

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

by Laurie Ristino | April 25, 2018
Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a pock-marked, micro-legislated Farm Bill along strict party lines. It's a shameful goody bag of legislative delights for a few that comes at the expense of the majority of the American people.  Some lowlights: The bill holds our hungriest Americans hostage by conditioning SNAP benefits (food stamps) on job training (what kind of country withholds food from its citizens?); reduces conservation dollars that are critically needed given the pitiful state of soil health ...

Blowing the Whistle on Workplace Hazards

by Katie Tracy | March 14, 2018
Workers have the right to speak up about health and safety hazards they encounter on the job. And they should be able to feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns without having to worry that they will be fired, demoted, or in some other way retaliated against for doing so. That is exactly what the drafters of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) had in mind when they included a provision in the 1970 law prohibiting employers from ...

Is the Farm "Safety Net" Safe?

by Laurie Ristino | February 08, 2018
This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill. Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate. The ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward

by Carl Cranor | December 18, 2017
Is the current "tax reform" going through Congress just? Justice is important because even if citizens are treated dissimilarly by institutions, if the differences are just, all have reasonable treatment and the institutions are likely to be socially accepted.  A widely endorsed theory of justice, developed by the philosopher John Rawls nearly 50 years ago, captures how thoroughly unjust the congressional tax plan is. Understanding this and how it weaponizes wealth against most ordinary citizens may explain why so many ...

More Thoughts on the CFPB Puzzle: President Trump Can Select Someone to Run the CFPB Only if the Senate Has an Opportunity to Confirm

by Nina Mendelson | November 28, 2017
Originally posted at Notice & Comment, a blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation and the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Reprinted with permission. On Friday, November 24, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray named Leandra English, the longtime CFPB Chief of Staff, to the post of Deputy Director. Based on legislation specific to the CFPB, that put her in a position to serve as Acting Director upon his departure. Cordray then resigned. A few ...

Beyond the Dinner Table -- U.S. Poultry Plant Workers at Risk

by Katie Tracy | November 20, 2017
On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country will sit down for huge feasts, filling their bellies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. My mouth is watering just writing about it. In many households, it's tradition for each person at the table to say what they're thankful for and express their appreciation for the meal in front of them. But when it comes to that delicious meal, we often overlook the workers inside the poultry slaughter facilities and ...

The Hill Op-Ed: The House Recently Sided with Big Banks over Consumers

by Martha T. McCluskey | August 07, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your credit card, a loan on your car, or a new checking account? Chances are, you missed an important provision called a "forced arbitration clause." This provision says that if the bank or credit card company has made a mistake it refuses to correct, or even cheated you out of money, you cannot sue to attempt to get your money back. Instead, you ...

With Final Forced Arbitration Rule, the CFPB Continues to Advance the Public Interest

by Thomas McGarity | July 13, 2017
Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took decisive action to protect hardworking people who are cheated by banks or other financial institutions. Specifically, the federal agency issued a rule limiting what are known as "forced arbitration" agreements in the contracts we must all sign when we open a bank account or purchase certain kinds of financial products and services. Last year, scholars and staff at the Center for Progressive Reform authored a report that supported CFPB's efforts ...

Regulatory Paralysis by Preemption: GMO Food Labeling and Potentially More

by Lesley McAllister | March 02, 2017
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog by CPR Member Scholar Lesley McAllister. Did you know that as of July 2016, we have a new federal law mandating that genetically engineered food be labeled? It is true – see 7 U.S.C. § 1639(b)(2)(D) (Jul. 29, 2016). So when, you might ask, will you be able to know which of all those foods we buy at the grocery store are produced with GMOs? It could be a very long wait. For one thing, ...

Health for Women, Health for All

by Catherine O'Neill | January 24, 2017
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated their nationwide consumption advisory on mercury contamination in fish. The advisory, which focuses on women of childbearing age and children, aims to "make[] it easier than ever" to determine which fish species to eat and which to avoid. It seeks to ensure that women and children don't have to forgo the health benefits of eating fish in order to avoid consuming the potent neurodevelopmental toxin.    Despite ...

Beware Compounded Drugs -- Especially Under Trump's FDA

by Rena Steinzor | December 14, 2016
A burgeoning and little-regulated private industry that specially mixes drugs at so-called compounding pharmacies poses a public-health hazard that the Trump administration is about to make a whole lot worse. An earlier version of this story appeared in The American Prospect.  President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to eliminate 70 to 80 percent of all federal regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rulebook is near the top of his list. Close Trump adviser Newt Gingrich has denounced the FDA ...

New CPR Report: Protecting the Rights of Victims of Defective Aircraft

by James Goodwin | November 30, 2016
Many Americans would likely be shocked to learn how lax government oversight of the manufacture and design of aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters, has become. After all, any list of those areas of the economy that would seem to cry out for strict regulation would have to include aircraft production and maintenance, considering that when aircraft are defective or contain defective parts, the consequences are almost inevitably catastrophic and tragic.  Yet, in a 2004 audit, Congress' nonpartisan Government Accountability ...

Hair-Raising Ordeal Draws Attention to Lack of Oversight of Cosmetics, Personal Care Products

by Mollie Rosenzweig | November 01, 2016
Last year, consumers linked Wen hair products to sudden and dramatic hair loss. The story generated a flurry of national coverage and spurred increased interest in just how closely the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates our cosmetic products. Indeed, Wen hair products are not alone in causing dangerous side effects and containing disconcerting ingredients: Consumers have raised alarms over formaldehyde in hair straightening products, mercury in skin creams, and an array of toxic chemicals in children's face paint, including ...

It's Time to Give Customers of Financial Services and Products Their Day in Court

by James Goodwin | October 10, 2016
Originally published by the Oxford Business Law Blog. Reprinted with permission. Forced arbitration clauses are now almost impossible to avoid in consumer contracts for financial services and products ranging from credit cards to private student loans. Despite their ubiquity, most consumers aren't even aware of them. This is because companies frequently bury them deep in the lengthy fine print of their contracts, which they then offer to consumers on a 'take it or leave it' basis. Forced arbitration clauses warrant ...

Comments from CPR: Forced Arbitration Proposal Is Strong but Should Be Stronger

by James Goodwin | August 23, 2016
Yesterday, several CPR Member Scholars and staff formally submitted comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) proposed rule to limit the use of forced arbitration agreements in consumer contracts for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts.  CPR Member Scholars and staff have been tracking this rulemaking for over a year and in May 2016 published a report that assessed several key issues shortly before the CFPB released its proposal. In particular, our report evaluated the CFPB's preliminary ...

Sorry, Senator Vitter. The CFPB Is in Full Compliance with Small Business Outreach Law.

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2016
While the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get You Want" may be an ill-advised campaign song, perhaps it can still serve as the official theme song for Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requests. The anti-regulatory senator had requested that the GAO audit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – a favorite punching bag of the right – to determine whether it is complying with the small business outreach requirements imposed by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement ...

Food, Drug, Product Safety

How safe is the food we eat? How safe and effective are the drugs we take? What about the cars we drive and the consumer products we buy? These are questions one might expect federal regulatory agencies to answer with quick and reassuring replies. Unfortunately, examples of unsafe products in recent years have been far too common, and in some cases, all too deadly.

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