Thursday, July 22, 2004

OSHA Descends to Hispanic Summit Today

Today is the Labor Department's Hispanic Summit and to prepare for it, Secretary of Labor Chao has signed "a Joint Declaration that reaffirms the shared commitment of the United States and Mexico to improve compliance with and awareness of workplace laws and regulations protecting Mexican workers in the United States."

Clearly concerned that the American workplace is becoming a weapon of mass destruction for his countrymen, "President Vicente Fox has instructed the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs to implement concrete actions that will improve the quality of life of all Mexicans in the United States."

As the Bush administration attempts for the fourth straight year to cut its worker training grants (many of which target Hispanic workers) and refuses to issue the Payment for Personal Protection Standard (which would particularly benefit Hispanic workers), it is not entirely clear what this Joint Declaration actually does for Mexican workers in the U.S. But it made a great press release, and that's what's important.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced earlier this month that between 1996 and 2001:
Mexican-born-worker fatalities alone accounted for 40 percent (1,915) of all fatalities to foreignborn workers, and fatal work injuries to Mexican-born workers were uniquely observed to trend upward over the duration of the 6-year period under analysis, increasing from a low of 241 fatalities in 1996 to 422 in 2001.
And speaking of Press Releases, the Labor Department also (re)announced today that Secretary Chao will deliver the keynote address at the Hispanic summit.

Fatalities among Mexican workers fell 8% in 2002, while fatalities among all Hispanic workers rose.

Meanwhile, the really important news in the press release was the election campaign announcement that
After her address, Secretary Chao will also announce a significant grant to help Hispanic youth in Orlando [that would be Orlando, Florida) and four other cities. The grant will provide education and training services to help at-risk Hispanic youth."
Oh, did I mention that the Summit and the grant were located in Florida?

Aside from Chao and Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, John Henshaw, the Labor Department has announced no other speakers at the conference, which is being co-sponsored by two Hispanic business groups. NIOSH had dropped its co-sponsorship because DOL would not allow their input into the planning process.

(If anyone reading this is going to the summit, I'd love to hear about it.)