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Feb. 24, 2016 by Katie Tracy

More Delay for OSHA's New Silica Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon."

The silica rule, which OSHA proposed in Sept. 2013 after 20 years of development, cannot come soon enough for workers and their families. Exposure to these tiny dust particles can cause an incurable and fatal lung disease called "silicosis," and other debilitating health effects. But will the final rule demand that employers' take genuine responsibility for workers' health by implementing effective controls to reduce hazardous silica exposures? Or will OSHA have weakened its proposal, appeasing industry opponents and further contributing to the stark imbalance between the working class and the moneyed interests of big businesses and lobbyists? We won't know until the rule is published, but when that time comes, here are the provisions that are likely to be the most telling:

A …

Dec. 22, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster criminal prosecutions against employers responsible for endangering workers’ health and safety.

The new initiative is an encouraging step toward punishing employers who make decisions that put profits over people and toward deterring others from violating federal labor laws. But the initiative—while it’s a beneficial supplement to the weak criminal penalties applicable to many labor violations—is also limited in scope …

Nov. 23, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Late last week, the White House released its fall 2015 Unified Agenda—the semi-annual report on regulations under development or review by each federal agency. As usual, and therefore of little surprise, this latest agenda spells delay for a laundry list of critical safeguards at several agencies.

According to CPR senior analyst James Goodwin’s review of the regulatory agendas for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and several other agencies, several new protections will be delayed anywhere from two months to over a year.

A look at the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda also signals extensive delays for some long-anticipated worker protections. Here is the status of rules under development at DOL classified as “major” or “economically significant” rules:

Agency

Rule

Spring 2015

Fall 2015

DOL/OSHA

Combustible Dust

 

Pre-rulemaking: expected to initiate small business review panel by 02/2016 …

Nov. 10, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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A startling new report by Oxfam America reveals just how dangerous it is to work inside a poultry processing plant. The report is packed full of alarming statistics and heart-breaking personal stories from brave workers, exposing an industry that fails to protect workers from well-known hazards and that discourages workers from reporting injuries when they occur.

Despite the underreporting of injuries and illnesses, the poultry industry’s safety record is dismal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry had 4.5 total recordable cases per 100,000 full-time workers in 2013, compared to the national average for private industry of 3.3 total recordable cases. Among the common injuries in the industry, poultry workers suffer a high incidence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), like carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder injuries, from repetitive and forceful twisting, cutting, and chopping movements.

Recognizing these hazards, the federal Occupational Safety …

Sept. 28, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis, 21, died tragically on his first day of work at his first job, as a “temp worker” at a Bacardi bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his shift within 15 minutes of arriving at the facility, after completing some paperwork and watching a very brief safety video. Although working in a bottling facility is a dangerous job, Davis and his coworkers received no real training about the potential hazards or proper safety procedures. Within hours, Davis was asked to help clean up some broken bottles caused by a machine malfunction. While he was under the machine picking up the glass, the equipment was turned back on, and he was crushed to death.

Davis’ story is a poignant example of an eager and hard-working individual killed on-the-job because no one cared to train him, despite legal requirements to do so, before placing him …

Sept. 10, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Marking a victory for workers, on August 27, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a highly anticipated decision in the case of Browning-Ferris Industries, updating its overly restrictive standard for determining “joint employer” status for purposes of collective bargaining. The decision responds to the increasing reliance on contingent work arrangements that often involve multiple employers, and reflects the Board’s recognition that its application of labor law must be adjusted to address the realities of today’s economy.

Much of the news coverage of the decision has focused on what it could mean for fast-food establishments, like McDonald’s, whose joint employer status — as a big corporate franchisor exercising control over employees of its local franchisees — is currently pending review before the NLRB. Yet it’s also worth exploring what the new joint employer standard means, if anything, for college football players seeking to collectively bargain …

Sept. 1, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Every year, the federal government awards private firms billions of dollars in federal contracts. The contracts are supposed to go to “responsible” companies, but that isn’t always the case. According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2005 and 2009, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued 25 of its 50 largest fines against 20 federal contractors who later received over $9 billion in contracts in 2009. Over the same period, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 8 of its top 50 fines against 7 federal contractors who went on to receive almost $180 million in contracts in 2009.

In an effort to improve the contracting process, on July 31, 2014, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13673 on “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces.” Earlier this year, on May 28, the Department of Labor published its proposed guidance on implementing the …

Aug. 18, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Thousands of U.S. workers die every year because of on-the-job exposure to unsafe levels of crystalline silica, a toxic dust common in the construction, sandblasting, and mining industries. Even at the current legal limits, inhaling the tiny toxic particles poses a significant risk to workers of silicosis—an incurable and fatal disease that attacks the lungs—and other diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis, chronic kidney disease, and autoimmune disorders.

If you’re exposed to silica dust at work or know someone who is, you’ve probably been following news about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule published in September 2013 to strengthen the existing standard by cutting in half the permissible exposure limit and imposing medical monitoring requirements. By OSHA’s own estimates, the rule would prevent almost 700 deaths and 1600 illnesses every year, which is a primary reason why …

Aug. 5, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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Raul Zapata Mercado, a husband and father of three, was killed on January 28, 2012 when a 12-foot trench collapsed on him while he was working at a U.S. Sino Investments Inc. construction site in Milpitas, California.

More than three years after the fatal collapse, in May 2015, the construction company owner, Richard Liu, and the project manager, Dan Luo, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter—in other words, even though they didn’t act maliciously to kill Mercado, they are responsible for unintentionally killing him because their complete disregard for worker safety was so negligent that it rose to the level of a criminal act. Luo was also convicted of three counts of felony labor code violations for violating a safety order and causing a workers death. And on Friday, July 31, both men were sentenced to two years in prison as punishment for committing involuntary …

Aug. 3, 2015 by Katie Tracy
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July 26 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal civil rights legislation that protects the rights of people with disabilities to participate in and contribute to society, including the right to join the workforce.

Over the past quarter-century, the law has undoubtedly improved the lives of many Americans, but challenges remain, most notably with respect to equal employment opportunities. As U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez aptly wrote in his statement on the anniversary, “While we celebrate the courage of the trailblazers who made the ADA possible and mark the momentous progress of the last 25 years, we must also be resolute about meeting the challenges that remain. Employment remains the unfinished business of the ADA.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest employment figures, 12.5 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed in 2014, meaning they had …

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