Friday, January 16, 2004

What Would Jesus Regulate?

Who cares, he's not running for President. (And the way things are going these days, he probably wouldn't win anyway. Too anti-business. Although he does have an influential father which seems to be important these days.)

But we do have a number of Democratic candidates trying to burn the Bush. As I'm feeling lazy tonight and my kids have had too much homework, college applications, etc. for which they were in need of parental intervention, I'm going to steal shamelessly (well, actually I'm feeling a little shame) from NYCOSH (which stole from the AFL-CIO) to present you with the positions of the Presidential Candidates on workplace safety and health.

Presidential Candidates' OSHA Positions

Where do the presidential candidates stand on the issue of occupational safety and health? That was a question put to the major party presidential candidates by the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education, which posed a long questionnaire to the candidates, with two questions about safety and health: "How will you protect workers' safety and health on the job?" And, "Do you support or oppose a new standard to protect workers from ergonomic injuries?"

The questionnaires have been returned by nine of the ten likely candidates. The only holdout is George W. Bush. All of the candidates answered the first question with a brief statement. All of the candidates said that they support a new ergonomic standard; many did so by checking a box marked "Support." Some of the candidates also wrote something in response to the question about ergonomics. The candidates responses are listed below, with the ergonomics question second.

Wesley Clark - I strongly oppose any efforts to weaken the ability of OSHA to enforce workplace safety rules. We shouldn't ease penalties on employers who expose the workers to dangerous situations. I support legislative proposals that would increase penalties for workplace violations and encourage prosecutors to penalize violators of workplace safety standards to the fullest extent to of the law. The law protecting workers must have real deterrent value to protect workers from accidents before they happen. (Ergo) I support new standards to protect workers from ergonomic injuries.

Howard Dean - I support strengthening the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA should have more resources to enforce occupational safety laws and should have streamlined authority to issue worker safety standards. Serious violations of the OSH Act should be subject to criminal penalties. (Ergo) Support.

John Edwards - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and workplace safety laws safeguard millions of workers from hazardous work conditions and have prevented countless workplace accidents and fatalities. I will oppose budget cuts that threaten OSHA's ability to protect the safety and health of American workers and will oppose any efforts to weaken the OSHA laws. (Ergo) I believe we need a new standard to protect workers from ergonomic injuries, which are the nation's biggest workplace and safety health problem. Almost 2 million workers suffer from serious workplace injuries each year, even though these injuries can be prevented. We cannot ignore the science that now proves the correlation between repetitive movements in the workplace and serious injuries-and that certain steps have proven to be effective in reducing injuries. I voted against the Bush administration's efforts to overturn ergonomics regulations offered by the Clinton White House to prevent workplace injuries. I also helped lead the fight against anti-ergonomics Bush nominee Eugene Scalia.

Richard Gephardt - In recent years, Democrats have had to fight off Republican attempts to cut the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Shortly after gaining control of Congress, Republicans tried to cut OSHA by a third. With a pro-labor coalition, we stopped them. Our next challenge is to ensure OSHA receives greater funding and can take enforcement actions to improve workplace safety. As president, I would issue an executive order ending federal contracts for businesses with flagrant labor violations and would use a company's record on labor law compliance as a gauge of its fitness to be a contractor with the federal government. I would also restore efforts to promote an effective, pro-worker ergonomics standard. (Ergo) I have always supported an OSHA ergonomics standard, and led the fight in Congress. Republicans introduced multiple bills throughout the 1990s to block OSHA from issuing ergonomics standards. The Department of Labor had just begun working to develop the rules when the Gingrich Congress came to power in 1995. We fought hard against Republicans' attempts to stop ergonomics rules, and in 1996, despite a Republican majority, labor and its allies won the fight to get anti-worker, anti-ergonomic language out of the bill that funds the Labor Department. It was a victory and a show of strength for organized labor. Our efforts were short-lived success because President Bush, in one of his first major acts in office, signed legislation ending the worker protections afforded by the rules. Since then, the administration has done nothing but add insult to injury. A panel to "study" ergonomics appointed last December included seven management representatives and just two workplace safety efforts; just months ago, the Department of Labor stopped all recordkeeping on these injuries. It is stunning that our president has become a true adversary of workplace safety. As president I would immediately restore the rules put in place during the Clinton administration.

John Kerry - The most recent reports from the Department of Labor show that workplace injuries continue to rise, particularly for groups like Hispanic workers and miners. We need to step up enforcement action and begin to prosecute willful violators of health and safety rules. We also need an administration that recognizes the health and safety threat that workers face, whether in the form of ergonomic injury, exposure to TB, or workplace accidents. I'd start by stepping up OSHA inspections, ordering my Justice Department to vigorously prosecute the worst violators and reinstating the standards for ergonomics that the Bush Administration cancelled. (Ergo) Support.

Dennis Kuchinich - Worker safety comes from real enforcement of regulations and the fostering of worker rights. Active enforcement of safety regulations only comes with adequate staffing for the government agencies overseeing the safety and health of American workers and a change in some of our laws. The current climate of punishing workers who reveal corporate malfeasance and safety violations must be legislatively and administratively changed. (Ergo) Support.

Joseph Lieberman - I have always recognized the importance of protecting workers' safety and health on the job, and have consistently stood up to right-wing attempts to undermine work safety and health standards. In 2000, for example, I voted to defeat an amendment to the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill which would have limited the use of federal funds to implement the ergonomics rule. I am proud to have led the fight and worked with the AFL-CIO as the leading Democrat on the Governmental Affairs Committee to derail damaging regulatory reform plans that would have threatened workers' rights. As President, I will work just as hard to ensure that enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act is fully funded and will vigorously oppose any Republican effort to prevent OSHA from issuing final standards protecting employees from repetitive stress injuries. (Ergo) I have always recognized the importance of protecting workers' safety and health on the job, and have fought for strong ergonomic standards.

Carol Moseley Braun - Enforcement of OSHA would be a start. Collective bargaining, and worker councils in so—called right to work states could play a major role in monitoring and reporting safety issues. If workers and employers had some sense that the bureaucracy was responsive to their concerns, OSHA could assist in creating workplaces that are safer, more productive, and more conducive to the creation of wealth. (Ergo) Support. See Howard Dean

Al Sharpton - By strengthening OSHA and making sure there is strong enforcement of OSHA's laws. (Ergo) Support
Of course, as I've often said, these promises don't mean a thing if they don't understand now and after one of them is elected that these are serious issues that concern a lot of people. So if you have the chance during this election season to question or talk with any of the candidates -- for President, Senator or Congressperson -- make safety and health one of the topics you talk about.

NYCOSH nicely distilled this from the complete AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education report which can be found here.