Is OSHA Out of the Worker Protection Business?

by Katie Tracy | July 24, 2017

When President Trump released his spring Unified Agenda last week, he made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in protecting workers from occupational injuries and diseases. The White House released the agenda amid what it called “Made in America” week, but instead of recognizing workers and advocating for safe and healthy jobs and fair wages, Trump brought manufacturers to the nation’s capital to show off their products. When it comes to working families, Trump is ignoring what should be his highest priority – ensuring that every person who leaves home for a job in the morning returns at the end of the day without injury or illness.

The regulatory agenda for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is devoid of any plans that would address the litany of significant health and safety hazards workers face on a daily basis. Rather, OSHA has cut down the size of its agenda by more than half, from 30 items to a mere 14. Eleven of the agency’s fourteen planned activities relate to work it will carry over from the Obama administration. However, what may be mistaken for progress at first glance is anything but. All but one action does nothing more than extend the date by which the agency expects to complete previously planned activities. The remaining rule – the only rule that OSHA plans to finalize in the near term – ...

OSHA to Expand Voluntary Protection Programs without Assessing Benefits to Workers

by Katie Tracy | July 21, 2017
On Monday, July 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) convened a public meeting to hear input from stakeholders about how the agency might grow and strengthen its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). Given the change in administration, the announcement was no surprise.  Growing the VPP had also been a priority of the George W. Bush administration, during which time OSHA made plans to add thousands of new participants despite having no evidence the program improved worker health and safety. ...

Trump Budget Would Rob Public Programs to Give Money to Private Corporations

by Katie Tracy | May 26, 2017
President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request may be DOA in Congress, but it nonetheless offers critical insight into how he expects to pay for his border wall, increase defense spending, offer up a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, and carry out his other pet projects, all while cutting corporate taxes. The bottom line is that he intends to eliminate some public programs and rob many others, and give that money to private corporations. The Trump budget proposal to slash funding for the ...

Workers' Memorial Day: Honoring Fallen Workers, Fighting for Safer Jobs

by Katie Tracy | April 26, 2017
Every worker has a right to a safe job. Yet on an average day of the week, 13 U.S. workers die on the job due to unsafe working conditions. An additional 137 lives are lost daily due to occupational diseases – mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, among others.  On Friday – Workers' Memorial Day – we will stand with the families, friends, and colleagues of fallen workers to remember each of them as individuals whose lives represent much more than a ...

Andrew Puzder Should Not Be the Next Labor Secretary

by Katie Tracy | January 30, 2017
The Senate Labor Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Feb. 7 on President Donald Trump's nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed by a vote of the full Senate, Puzder will oversee all of the agencies and departments within the Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). This is troubling, to say the least, because a look at Puzder's ...

Representing Workers Injured on the Job – A New York Perspective

by Katie Tracy | October 05, 2016
When it comes to worker health and safety, preventing injuries and illnesses is the number one goal. It was for this very purpose that Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with setting and enforcing strong workplace standards. But when preventative measures fail and workers are harmed, agency enforcement actions against the employer (while necessary) don't provide legal redress to workers or their families for the damages they've ...

Federal Contracting Gets Safer Thanks to New, Common-Sense Regulations

by Katie Tracy | September 21, 2016
Federal contractors that violate labor laws not only cheat workers by disregarding their rights to fair pay and safe workplaces, but they also tend to run into unexpected costs and delays during performance of the contracts they're awarded. With this in mind, in 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13673, which seeks to improve cost savings and efficiency in government contracting by requiring prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations and obligating contracting agencies to review those violations before ...

It's Well Past Time for OSHA to Act on Heat Stress

by Katie Tracy | August 11, 2016
Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another ...

CPR Lauds OSHA's Continued Vigilance over Rampant Dangers in the Poultry Slaughter Industry

by Matt Shudtz | July 29, 2016
Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Pilgrim's Pride, one of the world's largest poultry processors, with more than a dozen serious workplace health and safety violations. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz issued the following statement today:  Credit OSHA for pushing the envelope. The poultry slaughter industry loves to tout its declining injury rates, but outside experts have many reasons to believe the industry's cooking its books. This isn't the first time OSHA's investigators have uncovered ...

New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk

by Brian Gumm | June 30, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk As Agency Prepares to Increase Maximum Penalty Levels for Workplace Health and Safety Violations, It Should Reexamine Settlement Policy Workplace health and safety standards exist for a reason. When companies ignore them, they put their workers in significant danger. Every year, thousands of workers die on the job in the United States, and many more are seriously injured. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) ...

Op-Ed: Prosecuting Safety Violations that Lead to Worker Deaths

by Matthew Freeman | June 01, 2016
CPR’s Rena Steinzor and Katherine Tracy had an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend highlighting the reluctance of police and prosecutors to treat worker deaths as if they were anything but mere accidents. In fact, they’re often the result of illegal cost-cutting and safety shortcuts by employers, behavior that sometimes warrants criminal charges. They write: When a worker dies because a trench collapses, and it turns out that managers sacrificed safety to get the job done faster, that’s a crime. When managers operate factories ...

GAO Confirms Dangerous Working Conditions across Poultry Industry

by Katie Tracy | May 25, 2016
This morning, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that hazardous working conditions across the meat and poultry industry put workers at risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. While injury and illness rates reportedly declined in the decade from 2004 to 2013, GAO emphasizes that the decrease might not be because of improved working conditions in the industry. Rather, the drop is likely due to data-gathering challenges at the Department of Labor and underreporting across the industry.  ...

The Silica Standard: A Case Study of Inequality in Worker Health and Safety Standards

by Katie Tracy | May 19, 2016
Back in March, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized its long-awaited silica standard, requiring employers to reduce workers' exposure to the toxic, cancer-causing dust so common to construction and fracking sites, among other workplaces. OSHA estimates that the new standard will prevent more than 600 deaths and 900 new cases of silicosis annually. That is certainly commendable, but the kudos would be more heartfelt if the new standard had been adopted decades earlier and if it fully addressed ...

New Oxfam Report: Poultry Industry Denies Worker Requests for Bathroom Breaks

by Katie Tracy | May 11, 2016
Can you imagine working for a boss who refuses you the dignity of taking a bathroom break? According to a revealing new report published today by Oxfam America, denial of bathroom breaks is a very real practice at poultry plants across the country, and line workers at these plants often "wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline."  If you've never worked on an ...

Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

by Matt Shudtz | April 28, 2016
Today, a lot of numbers will be thrown around – the staggering number of workers who died gruesome deaths on the job last year, the paltry fines that employers responsible for those deaths paid, the months and years we've waited for Congress to revisit the Occupational Safety and Health Act to make it more relevant to our modern workforce. There's good reason to reflect on those numbers. They tell us something important about our society and our relationship to work. ...

Steinzor in The New York Times: Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

by Brian Gumm | April 08, 2016
On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010.  In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, ...

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2016
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement: "Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a ...

OSHA's New Silica Rule: CPR's Matt Shudtz Reacts

by Matt Shudtz | March 24, 2016
Decades in the making, OSHA’s new silica rule will better protect millions of workers from a highly toxic, cancer-causing substance that has killed thousands while the rule slowly worked its way through the regulatory gauntlet, administration after administration. Today, in quarries, foundries, building sites, and kitchen rehab jobs across the country, workers can look forward to breathing cleaner air. But today’s announcement is far from the end of the story. Next comes the inevitable litigation. Following their tired playbook, special ...

Workers' Rights

The nation's workers face challenges of multiple fronts. Safety in the workplace continues to be a national problem, with thousads of workplace deaths and injuries every year. In addition, workers struggle for protection from wage theft and other economic protections.

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