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May 26, 2017 by Katie Tracy

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

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 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compared to the FY 2016 appropriations is a perfect example, although he’s proposed similarly drastic cuts, unfortunately, to many other non-defense programs in the budget.

While OSHA would suffer less drastic cuts than some other agencies, the targeted precision of these cuts—focused squarely on programs with such direct positive effects for workers—disproves Trump’s claim to be a president for the working class. Here are just a few examples of pro-corporation cuts to OSHA’s budget that Trump proposed compared to the enacted budget for FY 2016:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Standards Development: $2 million cut. This cut is proposed despite Trump’s anti-regulatory executive orders imposing major new time-consuming …

April 26, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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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 statistic. We will also renew our vow to fight for workers' rights so that every single person who leaves home for a job in the morning returns at the end of the day with all their limbs accounted for and with their health intact. 

Workers, advocates, and forward-thinking companies have already developed many worthy ideas to improve working conditions across the nation. Some basic changes we could make that …

Jan. 30, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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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 record and public statements on labor issues suggests he is not the right person for the job: he believes in cutting worker protections, not strengthening them. 

Puzder currently serves as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., the parent company of fast-food chains Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito. On the CKE website, Puzder's biography touts his nickname by some as …

Oct. 5, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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 incurred. Instead, recovering damages often necessitates they hire a private attorney to help them navigate this complex area of the law. 

The attorneys who take these cases play a critical role in workers' rights advocacy, and their experience offers a unique perspective that can help advocates better understand the challenges workers face and opportunities for overcoming them. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with …

Sept. 21, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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 awarding contracts. The E.O. also requires federal contractors to provide employees with wage statements that include certain information so that workers can verify the accuracy of their paychecks. 

Consistent with the E.O.'s directives, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council and Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule and guidance, respectively, in the Federal Register on Aug. 25. The Center for Progressive …

Aug. 11, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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 2,630 workers suffered injuries or illnesses related to excessive heat exposure. Yet OSHA has repeatedly declined to adopt a national standard, instead offering guidance to employers on preventing heat-related illnesses. 

Excessive heat exposure is a widely recognized occupational hazard for outdoor and indoor workers that can cause illnesses ranging from cramps to death. Heat can also raise the risk of injuries due to variations in working …

Aug. 10, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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UPDATED (8/10/2016): On August 9 and 10, Center for Progressive Reform Policy Analyst Katie Tracy delivered remarks at two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stakeholder meetings on risk evaluation, prioritization, and the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

August 9 – Risk Evaluation Rule

Thank you for the opportunity to present today. My name is Katie Tracy. I am a policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. I would just like to share a few brief comments with you today, which will be followed by written comments submitted to the docket. 

Scientific Uncertainty and Variability 

The first point I'd like to make is that the way EPA treats scientific uncertainty in its risk evaluations is critically important. Chemical risk assessment is inherently uncertain. Individual variations in exposure pathways, durations, physiological responses, and numerous other factors prevent researchers from establishing a precise estimation of chemical risks …

May 25, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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. 

GAO last looked at working conditions in the meat and poultry industry in 2005, when it found "that the meat and poultry slaughtering and processing industry was one of the most hazardous in the United States. . . ." GAO's new report reiterates its 2005 findings about common hazards found in the industry, including "hazards associated with musculoskeletal disorders, chemical hazards, biological hazards from pathogens and animals, and …

May 19, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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 the significant health risks to workers. 

The unconscionable delays and unjustified concessions awarded to industry at the expense of workers' health and safety are hardly unique to the silica standard; rather, they are the product of our broken regulatory process, which is riddled with analytical requirements designed to generate business-friendly outcomes. 

In the case of the silica standard, OSHA set the permissible exposure level (PEL) at 50 …

May 11, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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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 assembly or production line, you may wonder why workers need approval to use the bathroom in the first place. The processing line at a poultry plant moves rapidly, which means when one worker leaves the line, another must take his or her place to keep up with production. Typically, the employer will have a system in place for workers to signal when they need a …

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