Thursday, July 31, 2003

Republican-Controlled Committee Passes Republican Bill to Weaken OSHA

In a series of SHOCKING votes, Republicans on the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections passed three mini-OSHA bashing bills on three party-line votes, with all the Republicans on the committee voting in favor of the amendments and all the Democrats voting against them.

The bills were broken out of an original larger "OSHA Fairness (sic) Act of 2003. One of the measures that passed (H.R. 2728) would have the effect of extending the time period allowed for an employer to challenge the validity of an OSHA citation. Another would expand the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission from three members appointed by the President to five.

The third would shift the balance of power in legal proceedings from the Secretary of Labor to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Such a move would be significant if the Review Commission disagreed with OSHA about the validity of a citation. Now, if OSHA loses a case before the Review Commission, it can appeal to a federal court, and the court is legally required to give "deference" to the Labor Department's position on legal questions. If the bill passes, the courts would be required to give that deference to the Review Commission instead.

(I'm too tired and disgusted to go into more detail once again on these bills, but if you're interested in more information, check here and here and here.)

In a NYCOSH interview with Rep. Major Owens (D-NY)
Owens said "The majority is trying to pass these bills off as insignificant technical changes in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, but each of them makes the law slightly more difficult to enforce, and their cumulative effect can only be bad for workers and their families. I find it particularly interesting that the majority is proposing to expand the size of the government by adding two seats to the Review Commission. Any time the Republicans want to increase the size of the government, you can be sure it will not be good for working families."
Most of the above article was taken from the NYCOSH Update on Safety and Health July - September 2003 which you should all check out. It's got more good stuff.