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June 23, 2015 by Katie Tracy

Walmart's Cutthroat Business Model Fuels Labor Violations throughout Its Food Supply Chain

Every day, millions of consumers endure Walmart’s crowded parking lots and cramped aisles for the chance to buy retail goods and groceries at low prices.  Perhaps some visitors find value in the prospect of starring in the next caught-on-camera video like last week’s hit filmed at a store in Beech Grove, Indiana.  But the lower prices Walmart offers come at a high cost elsewhere. 

According to a new report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Walmart’s low cost strategy induces poor labor and environmental practices throughout its food supply chain, and these hidden costs are passed back to workers, suppliers, the environment, and communities.  “Walmart’s business model  . . . . creates the conditions to force suppliers to cut costs, which often means cutting wages for workers, lowering prices to farmers, and externalizing costs on to the environment and the communities surrounding the suppliers’ business,” the report states.

Moreover, the authors found that despite Walmart’s so-called “responsible sourcing” code of ethics that its suppliers are supposed to abide by, the company continues to do business with suppliers that fall below the code’s standards.  For all 11 of the food-related industries examined in the report, researchers found that companies …

June 22, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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Editors’ Note:  This is the fourth in a series of posts on measuring progress toward the 2017 interim goal of the Bay TMDL.  The first three posts cover the region as a whole, and then Pennsylvania and Virginia. Future posts will explore the progress of the remaining four jurisdictions.                

Judging from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s modeling of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is a tale of two states when it comes to reducing its polluting emissions.  On the one hand, the state is clearly lagging in reducing nitrogen pollution, one of two main contributors to the algal blooms that lead to “dead zones” in the Bay.  On the other hand, it has made some progress. Indeed, Maryland’s experience appears to be quite similar to that of Virginia, a leader in reducing nitrogen to date, in that it owes most of its success to significant …

June 22, 2015 by Matt Shudtz
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Last week, OSHA issued noteworthy citations against a poultry slaughtering facility in Delaware. The agency is using its General Duty Clause to hold Allen Harim Foods in Harbeson, Delaware responsible for ergonomic hazards that plague the entire industry—hazards involving the repetitive cutting and twisting motions that lead to musculoskeletal disorders like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

This case follows another from October of last year, when, in response to a complaint by workers and their advocates from the Southern Poverty Law Center, OSHA cited Wayne Farms in Jack, Alabama for General Duty Clause violations, also related to ergonomic hazards. As it turns out, the Wayne Farms case was a shot across the bow for an industry that subjects its workers to punishingly repetitive work in a variety of situations. Today’s announcement may be evidence of a trend developing in OSHA enforcement.

It’s a trend …

June 22, 2015 by James Goodwin
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For decades, so-called regulatory “reformers” have backed up their sales pitches with the same basic promise:  Their goal is not to stop regulation per se but to promote smarter ones.  This promise, of course, was always a hollow one.  But it gave their myriad reform proposals—always involving some set of convoluted procedural or analytical requirements designed to surreptitiously sabotage the rulemaking process—some shred of legitimacy, while insulating the proponents against any public backlash that might follow from such cynical attacks on broadly popular public health, safety, and environmental programs.

If the real motivation behind the “regulatory reform” movement wasn’t clear before, then tomorrow’s hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Budget Committees on “regulatory budgets” ought to peel away the last of any lingering doubts.  The idea behind “regulatory budgeting” (or “regulatory pay-go,” as it is sometimes known) is that …

June 19, 2015 by Erin Kesler
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Regular readers of this blog are already well acquainted with her, but for everyone else, CPR is pleased to introduce our new workers’ rights policy analyst, Katie Weatherford.

Weatherford joins CPR after several years with the Center for Effective Government, where she was a regulatory policy analyst and advocated for strong regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment. “Katie is insightful, thorough, and poised to be a great fit for CPR,” says Executive Director Matthew Shudtz, “along with our Scholars, I’m looking forward to working with her to fight for stronger worker health and safety protections.”

Among her achievements at CEG, Weatherford produced a report examining OSHA’s whistleblower protection program and proposing model state legislation to protect workers from retaliation. Her expertise on the subject will be invaluable as she takes on the job of working with CPR’s allies to help promote …

June 18, 2015 by Robert Verchick
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ROME—On my first visit to Vatican City, before my meeting with Michelangelo, I greeted the Pope via the city’s ubiquitous souvenir stands. I love this stuff. You can try on the “Papa Francisco” kitchen apron and imagine the pontiff’s smile beaming over your Spaghetti Bolognese. Or gently joggle the pate of a Pope Francis bobble-head. Postcards are everywhere, of course. And for €10 you can score the annual “Hot Priests Calendar,” featuring hunky young men of the cloth. In this “G-rated” feature, priests from all over the world help promote the Eternal City and breathe into the Catholic brand a wisp of hipness, to say nothing of hotness.

But back to the Pope. This week Pope Francis released the much anticipated encyclical on the environment and climate change. And there’s a connection between that, the souvenir aprons, and even the hot priests. I …

June 17, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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This is the second in a series of posts to explore progress in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, as reflected in recent data from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s elaborate computer model of the Bay, which accounts for what the states are actually doing to reduce pollution. Read the first post, taking a look at the overall region’s progress, here.

Judging solely from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Watershed Model, the Commonwealth of Virginia is doing a pretty good job of reducing its pollution “contribution” to the Bay. The most recent data (2014) from the Model indicate that the Commonwealth has achieved 97.6 percent of its nitrogen reduction goal for 2017 and 150.4 percent of its phosphorus reduction goal, three years ahead of schedule.

Virginia’s experience exemplifies two themes common among the Bay jurisdictions: (1) the Bay has reaped the benefits of actions …

June 17, 2015 by Evan Isaacson
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We recently explored how Virginia’s progress toward meeting the 2017 interim goal for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) is mostly the product of decades’ old financial commitments.  So, we might hope to see much of the same from Pennsylvania, a fellow member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission since 1985.  Unfortunately, despite decades of participation in the various agreements to clean the Bay, Pennsylvania’s lack of progress is the single biggest reason to worry about the future health of the Chesapeake.

Although no part of Pennsylvania borders the Chesapeake, much of the state is in the Bay watershed. Its agriculture sector alone contributes more than one-quarter of all nitrogen pollution in the watershed.  Put another way, this one sector contributes more nitrogen than the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, or more than every sector in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and West …

June 16, 2015 by Erin Kesler
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This morning CPR Scholar and George Washington University Law School professor Robert Glicksman will testify in support of EPA's proposed rule to regulate ozone. The Hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommitee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will focus on the potential impacts of the proposed ozone rule on manufacturing. 

Glicksman's testimony corrects misinformation about the ozone rule's potential negative impact on manufacturing. He notes,

My testimony makes four key points:

  1. A strong national ozone pollution standard that fulfills the public health goals of the Clean Air act will deliver significant benefits for human health and the environment.  
  2. Regulations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending ozone standard, can and do provide important economic benefits for U.S. businesses, including those in the manufacturing sector.  
  3. A frequently cited study purporting to find catastrophic economic effects from a strong …

June 15, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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In the shadow of the upcoming Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage is an important environmental case that has important implications for the health of women of childbearing age in America.  The Court will decide whether to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent limitations for emissions of the toxic metal mercury from the nation’s coal- and oil-fired power plants. And as with the Obamacare case, the case turns on a matter of language: the single word, “appropriate.” 

If the Court adheres to a long line of its own precedents on how courts are to interpret statutes that delegate decisionmaking power to regulatory agencies, the case should be an easy win for EPA.  If, however, some of the Justices cannot resist the temptation to impose their own policy preferences on EPA, the upcoming decision could be a very bad one for environmental regulation and …

CPR HOMEPAGE
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Supreme Court's Judicial Activism Leaves Americans Vulnerable to Mercury Pollution

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King v. Burwell and EPA's Climate Rules

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