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July 24, 2017 by Katie Tracy

Is OSHA Out of the Worker Protection Business?

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 …

July 21, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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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. Resource constraints ultimately tempered OSHA’s expansion plans, but not before the agency had damaged the VPP and eroded its integrity. With this history in mind, I attended this week’s stakeholder meeting to urge the agency to learn from the past and reevaluate the VPP’s performance and cost-effectiveness before it moves to expand it. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) or the Department of Labor (DOL …

May 26, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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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 …

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 one such …

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 …

July 29, 2016 by Matt Shudtz
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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 the sophisticated sabotage of worker protections. That's why it is so important for OSHA's lawyers to carry this case through and hold Pilgrim's Pride accountable. Make no mistake, the rest of the industry is watching.

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The Center for Progressive Reform is a nonprofit research and educational organization with a network of Member Scholars working to protect health, safety, and …

June 30, 2016 by Brian Gumm
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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) tools to hold employers accountable for endangering workers have been woefully inadequate for decades. While some of those tools are slated to become stronger, a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) shows that the agency needs to seize the moment to reassess additional policies to better deter violators and prevent worker deaths and injuries. 

The CPR report, OSHA's Discount on Danger: OSHA Should …

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