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July 31, 2014 by Erin Kesler

CPR President Rena Steinzor in Roll Call: Congress Vs. GM: 'Why Not Jail' Squares Off Against K Street

Today, Roll Call published a piece by CPR President Rena Steinzor in support of the "Hide no Harm" bill.

According to the piece:

The “Hide No Harm Act” includes a definition of the “responsible corporate officer” against whom such cases could be brought, clarifying an existing legal doctrine by saying higher-level executives have the “responsibility and authority, by reason of his or her position in the business entity  . . .  to acquire knowledge of any serious danger.” The key is that the person could or should have known, not that he or she admits to having known.

It concludes:

The Department of Justice is undoubtedly negotiating fervently with company lawyers to reach a corporate settlement. But the prospect of allowing GM to buy its way out of having caused at least 13 deaths without even admitting criminal liability, casts a shadow over the proceedings. Why should the responsible parties at GM escape prosecution because the corporate “person” that employs them can afford to pay a hefty monetary penalty, giving federal prosecutors brief bragging rights without deterring other bad actors? Why not jail is now the most pressing question.

To read the piece in full, click here.

July 31, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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In a press call today, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the poultry slaughter “modernization” rule is final and effective immediately.  

CPR President Rena Steinzor reacted to the rule's finalization:

The rule is a travesty from the perspective of every child who has chicken nuggets for lunch and every low-wage worker who stands in a fetid, overcrowded room cutting chicken carcasses thousands of times a day.

The new inspection system will allow plants to operate their slaughtering and evisceration lines at speeds that have proven hazardous for workers.  It will pull federal inspectors off the processing line, ensuring that carcasses caked in blood, guts, and feathers whir by at the rate of 2.3 bird per second.

The Government Accountability Office has written two scathing reports on the scant data used in promulgating the rule and the Southern Poverty Law Center has released reports documenting the …

July 30, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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We’ve received the bad news from impeccable sources that the much-criticized USDA poultry processing rule has passed White House review at record speed—20 days, count ‘em!—and will be released late this afternoon.  As usual, the process of OIRA review was shrouded in secrecy, with affected stakeholders filing in and out of the White House to talk about a rule they had never seen to taciturn OIRA officials who had long since cut a deal with USDA.  Of course, the late afternoon release is designed to forestall criticism in the same news cycle that will report the White House spin on the rule.  But we know enough about it to make some basic observations.

Our sources informed us that the rule will allow companies to have processing lines that run at the speed of 140 birds per minute—that’s 2.3 chickens every single …

July 28, 2014 by James Goodwin
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As I noted here last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that delivered a scathing review of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy.  The GAO report’s general objective was to assess whether and to what extent the SBA Office of Advocacy is fulfilling its core mission of serving as a “voice for small businesses within the federal government,” and accordingly looked at two of its most important activities for carrying out that core mission: sponsoring small business-centered economic research and participating in individual rulemakings that have a significant impact on small business interests.

In contrast to most GAO reports—which are conspicuous for avoiding controversy and their dry, moderate tone—this one offered some uncharacteristically strong criticisms of the SBA Office of Advocacy.  For example, after rejecting the SBA Office of Advocacy’s feeble excuses for not taking any steps …

July 28, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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It must be something of a game for them.  That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for why the antiregulatory members of Congress seem so intent on competing with each other to see who can introduce the most outlandish, over-the-top anti-EPA bill.  If it is a game, then its best competitors would have to include Senators John Barasso (R-WY) and David Vitter (R-LA) who earlier this month introduced S. 2613, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014.

If this bill sounds familiar, that’s because it is identical to one that was introduced in the House in February by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ).  At the time, a group of CPR Member Scholars sent a letter to the Subcommittee on the Environment of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, of which Representative Schweikert is chair, to explain their concerns in anticipation of …

July 22, 2014 by James Goodwin
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Earlier today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a scathing report, criticizing the regulatory work and research conducted by the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy.  For the past several years, CPR has worked to bring much-needed attention from policymakers, the press, and the public interest community to the SBA Office of Advocacy, which has long leveraged its powerful position in the rulemaking process to oppose stronger safeguards necessary for protecting people and the environment.  Critically, as CPR’s work reveals, the beneficiaries of the SBA Office of Advocacy’s interventions have been large corporations and trade groups, to the detriment of the small businesses they are actually supposed to be helping.

The report, Office of Advocacy Needs to Improve Controls over Research, Regulatory, and Workforce Planning Activities, was conducted in response to a request for a review of “Advocacy’s activities” from the Subcommittee …

July 15, 2014 by Anne Havemann
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I will never look at a construction site the same way again.

Certain types of pollution—mostly sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus—run into the Chesapeake Bay and fuel algal blooms, creating dead zones where crabs, oysters and other Bay life cannot survive. Indeed, the Chesapeake is on track to have an above-average dead zone this year.

Construction sites are a major source of sediment runoff. When mud washes from a single construction site, it can damage three miles of downstream waters. Recovery can take up to a century. Maryland has rules that construction companies are supposed to follow to minimize runoff. These rules pay off: For every dollar spent keeping mud onsite, taxpayers save $100 or more in damages avoided.

That’s why I spent last Wednesday driving around Baltimore with four others checking to see whether constructions sites were following the rules.

I learned that the …

July 15, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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New legislation introduced by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) and co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would ensure that corporate executives who knowingly market life-threatening products or continue unsafe business practices are held criminally responsible when people die or are injured.  

Under the Hide No Harm Act, key corporate managers will be required by law to report serious dangers to relevant government agencies, employees and affected members of the public.

CPR Member Scholars wrote in support of the bill to Senators in a letter last month.

According to the letter:

The recent General Motors (GM) ignition switch scandal vividly illustrates the catastrophic consequences that can result when corporations fail to disclose the known dangers associated with their harmful business activities.   The now highly profitable auto manufacturer—$3.8 billion last year alone—determined that the estimated $2.3-million-fix for the problem ($0.90 fix for …

July 14, 2014 by Catherine O'Neill
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gone to exceeding lengths to defer to states’ efforts to bring their water quality standards into the twenty-first century.  But the state of Washington has shown the perils of this deferential posture, if the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA) are ever to be reached for our nation’s waters.  After months and years of delay, Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference this week to unveil his long-awaited plan for updating Washington’s water quality standards for toxic contaminants – standards currently premised on a fish consumption rate (FCR) derived from a 40-year-old survey of human exposure. 

Inslee’s grand plan? 

Take one step forward, two (or so) steps backward … and appeal to EPA for yet more time.

Fish consumption is the primary route of human exposure to a host of harmful contaminants including dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, and methylmercury.  The …

July 11, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent its benighted poultry processing rule to the White House for final review.  The millions of consumers who eat undercooked chicken at their peril and the beleaguered workers in these dank, overcrowded, and dangerous plants can only hope the President’s people come to their senses over there and kill this misguided fiasco. 

Ordinarily, we would have hoped that Department of Labor secretary Tom Perez would have put his foot down before USDA proceeded with the final rule, but after months of pleas from the National Council of La Raza, African American labor advocates, trade unions, and consumer groups across the spectrum, he has remained aloof.  Apparently, the economic needs of multi-billion dollar poultry processing companies that have brought us salmonella outbreak after salmonella outbreak will once again trump the needs of the consumers and workers, especially Hispanic and African …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 31, 2014

CPR President Rena Steinzor in Roll Call: Congress Vs. GM: 'Why Not Jail' Squares Off Against K Street

July 31, 2014

Statement of CPR President Rena Steinzor on the Finalization of USDA's Poultry Inspection Rule that Harms Consumers and Workers

July 30, 2014

Tweaks to Bad Chicken Processing Rule Leave Workers and Consumers in the Lurch; Rule Hurtles Out of the White House Door at Record Speed

July 28, 2014

The GAO's Scathing Report on the SBA Office of Advocacy: 15 Big Revelations

July 28, 2014

Silly “Secret Science” Scheme Slithers to the Senate

July 22, 2014

CPR's Persistent Watchdogging of Embattled SBA Office of Advocacy Prompts Scathing GAO Report

July 15, 2014

Citizen Enforcement: Preventing Sediment Pollution One Construction Site at a Time