Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Right To Bargain And The Right To Live

Mike Begatto, Executive Director of Delaware's American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees urges the Delaware legislature to support a bill that would give collective bargaining rights to the state's public employees. Public employees are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act and only 27 states allow collective bargaining for public employees. Delaware is one of those states, but the law doesn't allow them to bargain over economic issues.

Full collective bargaining for public employees is a good thing. But so is the right to come home from work alive and healthy. Delaware is also one of 26 states that does not provide OSHA coverage for public employees. While AFSCME lobbies for collective bargaining right, maybe they should also lobby for the right to a safe workplace.

After all, the logic is the same. As Begatto writes in defense of collective bargaining:
Those who oppose the right of state employees to bargain over wages cannot justify their position based on the nature of work performed by state employees. For many occupations there is little, if any, distinction between public and private sector work. Services provided by nurses and attendants at a private hospital are no different than those provided at a public hospital. Yet one group of workers enjoys the right to bargain over wages while the other does not. Laborers employed by a private firm that contracts with the state have the right to negotiate over their wages, but laborers employed directly by Delaware do not. There are countless other examples. The bottom line is, the current status of labor relations law in Delaware is not rational or justifiable.
Just replace the right to "negotiate" or "bargain" with the "right to work safely."

To paraphrase Begatto, "The bottom line is, the current status of public employee workplace safety in Delaware is not rational or justifiable."

Makes sense to me.


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