A coalition of occupational health and safety experts submitted an amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last Thursday, urging the Board to reconsider its restrictive definition of “joint employer” for purposes of collective bargaining. It’s a critical issue for workers as more and more are getting jobs through temp firms, staffing agencies, and other complex employment relationships. The workers who got your last-minute Father’s Day gift from the Amazon warehouse to your front door, for instance, don’t all get paychecks from Amazon, but they all operate at “Prime” speed because Amazon demands it.
From a health and safety perspective, it’s important that laws like the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) are interpreted broadly because the remedial purposes of those statutes – to ensure all workers can collectively bargain for better working conditions and to ensure that all workers are provided safe jobs – are best achieved when all of the employers with a connection to the job are at the table.
As the amici describe very well, the labor market is evolving to exploit loopholes in the laws that were meant to keep workers safe on …
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.
Luis Castaneda Gomez, 34 and Jesus Martinez Benitez, 32 were asphyxiated in June 2011 when they were doing repairs inside a manhole. Their employer, Triangle Grading and Paving, was hired by the City of Durham, NC to make water line repairs. The firm had a history of violating worker safety regulations. Worse yet, it was not the first time an employee of Triangle Grading was killed on-the-job.
Durham, like most municipalities, did not have effective policies in place to guard against giving business to safety scofflaws. But that changed in Durham when it adopted a policy in 2012 requiring all bidders to provide information on their safety performance.
This example and many others are described in Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform. Liz Borkowski and I wrote the guide, along with the Center for Progressive Reform’s …
Thousands of U.S. workers die on the job each year, the victims of unsafe workplaces. Countless more are injured, some permanently disabled, or exposed to toxic substances that could eventually harm or kill them. While the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made progress to improve workplace safety since Congress passed the OSH Act in 1971, a new advocacy manual from the Center for Progressive Reform focuses on the progress on worker safety issues likely to come at the state and local levels, far from the general dysfunction in Washington.
Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform, written by a team of lawyers and public health researchers, offers local advocacy groups a series of policy proposals, all ripe for enactment by state legislatures, city or county councils, or state or local agencies.
In releasing the manual, CPR President Rena Steinzor — my …
Today, CPR Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz will be testifying at OSHA’s hearing on the proposed silica rule.
According to Shudtz:
The testimony raises some concerns about how OSHA arrived at its proposal to provide limited medical surveillance for silica-exposed workers. It also covers issues related to enforcement and small business impacts. But most importantly, the testimony reiterates the need to get this rule finalized quickly. As we have noted many times in this space, millions of workers are exposed to silica dust at levels that cause high rates of silicosis, lung cancer, renal disease, COPD, and other health problems. The faster this rule is put in place and enforced, the faster these workers will be able to breath safer air.
To read the testimony in full click here.
Today, Center for Progressive Reform analyst Michael Patoka testified at a Maryland Senate Finance Committee Hearing in support of SB 774, which would require construction companies contracting with the state to be prequalified based on their worker health and safety performance measures.
The widely supported legislation would ensure unscrupulous employers do not receive contracts funded by taxpayer dollars.
In his testimony Patoka notes:
Currently, construction firms are screened on a number of factors prior to bidding, but worker-safety considerations are not included. As a result, agencies can easily end up financing companies that operate hazardous worksites and endanger Maryland workers. Indeed, the current system encourages firms to cut corners on worker safety, since by doing so they may be able to offer lower bids than their more responsible competitors and thus have a better chance at winning lucrative contracts.
The construction industry is responsible for a disproportionately …
At long last, the comment period on OSHA’s silica proposal has closed and the next phase in this rule’s protracted timeline will commence. In the four months since OSHA released the proposal, the agency has received hundreds of comments. They run the gamut, from the expected support of unions and other advocates for working people, to the fear-mongering hyperbole of the major trade associations. CPR Member Scholars Sid Shapiro and Martha McCluskey joined us in submitting our own comments to the record. You can read them here.
Silica dust is a pervasive occupational hazard. The vast majority of exposed workers toil in the construction industry, where clouds of dust surrounding jackhammers, masonry and concrete saws, and brick and mortar work are an all too common sight. OSHA seeks to eliminate those dangerous conditions by encouraging employers to provide modern tools that have better dust collectors …
It’s not easy to stare into the eyes of a dying man. But that is what David Michaels, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), wants you to do.
A video called, “Deadly Dust,” featured on OSHA’s website, introduces Bill Ellis, a retired painter and sandblaster. After years of exposure to fine particles of blasted rock, he developed a respiratory disease called silicosis and died, leaving behind his wife, children, and grandchildren. Ellis’s final months were painful. For a silicosis patient, just drawing breath is an ordeal—like sucking air through a straw.
Thousands of laborers are exposed to the tiny stone particles, called silica, that killed Ellis. Any time workers blast sandstone, saw concrete, or cut brick, that dust is in the air. Because of the broad danger and the availability of relatively inexpensive protective gear, OSHA has released proposed …
We have a problem in New York City: We generate more than 30,000 tons of waste each day. Roughly one third of that waste is household trash, and the daunting task of collecting garbage from New York City’s three million households falls to 7,000 workers from the NYC Department of Sanitation. They are, in the words of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, “keeping New York City alive.”
All of NYC’s waste is shipped out of state for disposal. But first, the city must consolidate the garbage at one of 58 waste transfer stations. In addition to the overpowering odors the trash itself produces, these stations generate a constant stream of truck traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, and safety issues. So, of course, no one wants to live near them.
Thus, it may come as no surprise that most of NYC’s waste transfer stations …
Today OSHA announced two new web-based resources designed to help employers eliminate chemical hazards in the workplace. Both the toolkit for identifying less-hazardous substitutes and the annotated exposure limits table are useful informational resources designed to promote voluntary action by conscientious employers and informed demands by workers and their advocates. But OSHA has to deal with both the “high road” and the “low road” employers, so using these new tools in enforcement proceedings is a necessary adjunct to voluntary employer efforts. With some enterprising work by enforcement officials and strong support from the Solicitor of Labor the tools could be the basis for a new wave of enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.
As OSHA freely admits, the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) found in current regulations are out-of-date and inadequately protective. Employers may expose workers to chemicals up to those limits without incurring fines …
SBA’s Office of Advocacy has added its voice to the chorus of business interests who want OSHA to delay publication of a new rule that would protect workers from the deadly effects of silica exposure. In a letter to OSHA chief David Michaels, the top lawyers from the Office of Advocacy claim that it will be “nearly impossible” for small business representatives to review OSHA’s proposal and prepare the comments and testimony due in early December.
To be sure, the rulemaking docket is voluminous and the issues are complex. But the bottom line is that each day of delay in publishing the new rule means another day when millions of workers will be exposed to elevated levels of a deadly dust. By OSHA’s estimates, hundreds of workers die each year from silica exposures that are perfectly legal under current standards; thousands of other workers …