Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Ergonomics in Washington State: Something Wicked Westward Came

The Washington Post’s “Regulator” column caught up on the ergonomics situation today in an article that included the usual industry B.S.
The defeat of the Washington state rule "sends a strong signal that even in a relatively liberal state, voters are willing to listen and see that they don't need this regulation and, hey, maybe it will kill jobs. For it to be adopted by the general public is fairly unprecedented. It sends a shot across the bow to other state legislatures thinking about passing regulations in this area," said Randel Johnson, the Chamber's vice president for labor issues.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. The real signal this sent (as we’ve said before) is that voters in even liberal states with high unemployment are vulnerable to industry’s lies fearmongering about the loss of jobs and health care.

The only thing really new in this article was revelation fo the industry’s conspiracy theory:
Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, said, "The very people in OSHA who wrote the ergonomics rule moved to Washington state. They brought the ergonomics rule with them and refined it here."

Several Clinton administration Labor Department officials involved with the federal ergonomics rule did move to Washington state, but were returning home after stints with the federal government.
Michael Silverstein, who was director of policy at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the assistant director for the state's Department of Labor and Industries, which began work on the rule in 1998. In Washington, Silverstein worked under Joe Dear, who was assistant secretary of OSHA and a force behind promoting a federal rule.

Dear also came back to the state and became chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, who supported the rule. Silverstein's wife, Barbara, an ergonomist who was special assistant to Dear at OSHA, now heads the research arm of the state agency.
Most chilling is McCabe’s final quote: "I think what we did has national implications," said McCabe. "If we can do it here, it can be done anywhere."

Let's make it not be so.