Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

PHILAPOSH Awards reception

12.12.09

John Oliver Mason
November 28, 2009
PHILAPOSH Awards reception

The Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILPAOSH) held its 25th annual awards celebration in the Grand Ballroom of AFSCME District Council 33, 3001 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, on Friday, November 20, 2009.

Director Barbara Rahke spoke of the night’s honorees: “Tonight we pay tribute to members of our (Labor) community, who understand what it takes to fight for good jobs. Good jobs that not only provide a living wage, good jobs that provide family benefits, good jobs that provide pensions, but also good jobs that are safe and healthful, where people go to work without getting killed and without getting injured. They are leaders and organizers with the vision who understand that it takes an active and educated membership to move our agenda, and that you can’t lead without that.”

Rahke commended the awardees and similar activists as “worker-activists who have agitated for strong and effective health and safety committees, the backbone of the union health and safety movement.” Rahke spoke of PHILPOSH’s recent activities this year, such as participating in a national conference of COSH groups in Philadelphia; working with the families of workers killed on the job; working with unions, community organizations, and immigrant groups; holding classes in occupational safety and working with safety committees; and producing a video on worker safety for Spanish-speaking workers.

A new award, the Safety in the Trades Award, was awarded to Thomas P. Gallo, Business Manager of Steamfitters Local 420. Rahke announced that Gallo was not present but would present it to him. She added that Gallo received the award was, “One, they have been developing wonderful training programs, and developed their own internal program for process safety management for their members who work in refineries…(They) expressed a bigger vision when they were one of the first locals in the area to support the Protecting America’s Workers platform for federal action in 2009, which truly had a broad vision of what needs to be done for worker health and safety. Local 420 was very quick to sign on to that, and to see the need for that vision under Tom Gallo’s leadership.”

Kati Sipp, Vice-President of SEIU Healthcare PA, introduced presented the Karen Silkwood Award to Neil Bisno, President of SEIU Healthcare PA. “One of the things that immediately came to mind” in honoring Bisno, said Sipp, “is a principle I learned in my earliest days as an organizer ## the organizer is never the story, it’s always the workers’ voices that should be lifted up it’s always a story about bringing workers together to make sure that we’re winning power and winning struggles that are going to affect working people…Neil embodies that principle more than any organizer than I met.” For as long as she has known Bisno, said Sipp, “He really, in almost everything that he does, lives this principle, that the people who should be out front speaking about their contract fights, about their political fights, about whatever it is they’re trying to change in their community and their work site are the workers that we represent…It’s those people whose story we’re really here to support and that it gets out.”

In accepting the award, Bisno said, “It seems very hard to have your name associated with someone (who is) a hero of our movement like Karen Silkwood, who literally gave her life for health and safety and for workers’ rights.” Bisno said of PHILPAPOSH, “I really recognize the incredible work your organization does…It’s an incredible honor on behalf of myself and all of our 4,000 members in our local union to receive this award.”

Bisno spoke of his union’s fight against mandatory overtime for health-care workers, which his union represents: “SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania… is the largest union of nurses and health care workers in the state, and proud of it, representing 20,000 workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities…I want to take a second to thank them for coming and recognize some of our incredible members who are here tonight from Philadelphia-area facilities.”

Jim Moran, Executive Director Emeritus of PHILPAOSH, presented the Special recognition for a Lifetime of Activism Award to Alice Hoffman, veteran Labor educator. “A lot of the educational work she has done,” Moran said, “targeted the young people, with an eye toward developing new leadership. In each kind of educational work she did, she integrated job safety and health into that.” The award read, “Thanks to this extraordinary woman, workers have been motivated to lead in to their future, and have learned about the richness of their past.”

Upon receiving the award, Hoffman said, “The Health and Safety committee has always been about rank and file activism.” The founders of OSHA legislation in 1970, “ who I was fortunate enough to know…emphasized that education and training on safety in the workplace in absolutely key, and we’re seeing the results of it tonight.”

Hoffman reminded the audience of the words of the great labor activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, “Sit down, educate yourself for the coming conflicts. If she was here tonight, she would remind us that we cannot revitalize our movement without young, educated trade union activists.”

Rahke presented the award for Outstanding Health and Safety Committee to AFSCME Local 752 and the Joint Labor/Management Health and Safety Committee at the Philadelphia Zoo. Rahke recalled a call she received from the health and safety committee; “I ended up getting invited to attend one of their committee meetings,” she said, “and that was the experience of a lifetime. I sat through a meeting and I thought, this is incredible, climbing up ladders in a bat cage, cleaning and swabbing down the walls of the gorilla exhibit, climbing into treacherous, confined spaces, being responsible for keeping animals inside the cage and visitors outside the cage ## not an easy task.”

Rahke added, “That was the beginning of a revolution.” One woman who made complaints faced disciplinary procedures for speaking with Rahke; “The next thing I knew,” she added, “they were calling (the PHILAPSOH office) and said, ‘Oh, my God, it’s like crazy, they heard about it, we fought back.’ Making real change means you need a group of determined activist people who are going to take hold and not give up. What I found there was a group of workers who workers who were more than willing to work jointly with management to fix health and safety problems. They were not going to stop and they were not going to give up.”

PHILAPOSH staff member Nicole Charles presented the Crystal Eastman Award to Carol Austin, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for the Philadelphia Youth Network. This was in recognition for her work in advocating health and safety training as part of job development programs for area youth, along with environmentally-friendly “green jobs” such as in weatherization.

Austin spoke of her pleasure “to be in the presence of people who know how to fight for people, who know how to fight for what really matters. We live in a society where it really is about ‘Do whatever it takes to make that dollar,’ and so often who are left out are the people who really matter, who really make a difference… It’s very easy to think about including health and safety education as a no-brainer. How are you going to have people working and they don’t understand the fundamentals of being safe?” Austin commended Rahke and Charles for “their passion ## these ladies know how to fight for people.”

The Tony Mazzocchi Award was presented to Jim Savage, President of USW Local 10-1. Savage led a campaign for a new contract against the Sun Oil refinery in South Philadelphia, including gaining an ally in the surrounding community over safety at the refinery. Rahke said, “Under Jim’s leadership…(the local) took on Sun Oil in a fight for a contract, a fight for safety and health, (which was) a fight that involved the safety and health of their members and of the surrounding community. They had the community mobilized, they had members our door to door getting community members to sign petitions. They were in parking lots in the neighborhood, building, building, building. They put a billboard up across from the refinery (with) a picture of an explosion (at a refinery), so that the community would realize they were fighting for them as well.”

PHILAPOSH Awards Reception

11.16.09

The Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) will hold its annual awards reception on friday, November 20, 2009, at the headquarters of AFSCME Distirct Council 33, 3001 Walnut Street.
PHHILAPOSH is an organization dedicated to advocating for workers’ safety, with such activites as refering workers to atorneys specializing in workers’ compensation law, holding classes for workers in occupational safety tactics, and lobbying state legislators for stronger occupational safety laws.
For further information, contact PHILPAOSH at (215)386-7000, or e-mail bjlogue@yahoo.com.

OSHA begins program to determine accuracy of employer data

10.29.09

November 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA begins program to determine accuracy of employer data

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 9th- The United States Department of Labor’s(DOL’s), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington, DC is initiating a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on recordkeeping to assess the accuracy of injury and illness data recorded by employers.

The recordkeeping NEP involves inspecting occupational injury and illness records prepared by businesses and appropriately enforcing regulatory requirements when employers are found to be under-recording injuries and illnesses.

The inspections include a records review, employee interviews, and a limited safety and health inspection of the workplace. The National Emphasis Program will focus on selected industries with high injury and illness rates.

“Accurate and honest recordkeeping is vitally important to workers’ health and safety. This information is not only used by the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration to determine which workplaces to inspect, but it is an important tool employers and workers can use to identify health and safety problems in their workplaces,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970, OSHA’s role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for American’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providingtraining, outreach and education.

At the request of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the United States House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a study on the accuracy of employer injury and illness records.

This NEP will help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration work cooperatively with the Government Accountability Office. It also complements the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) efforts to investigate factors accounting for differences between the number of workplace injuries and illnesses estimated by BLS and those estimated by other data sources.

OSHA awards more than $6.8 million for safety training

10.14.09

October 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA awards more than $6.8 million for safety training

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, September 25th- The United States Department of Labor’s(DOL’s), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), awarded more than $6.8 million in Susan Harwood Training Grants to 30 recipients, encompassing labor unions, employer associations, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations. The training grants cover a two-year period. “Safe jobs are our priority. Providing workers and employers the knowledge and tools they need to ensure safe working conditions is the best way to prevent workers from getting injured or killed on the job,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

The Susan Harwood Training Grants support workplace safety and health programs that educate workers and employers in industries with high hazard and fatality rates, workers with limited English proficiency, hard-to-reach workers and supervisors, and small business employers. The grants support training programs that address hazards in both construction and general industry, such as crane safety, fall protection, combustible dust, and emergency preparedness and response. The agency received a record number of 345 applications this year.

The DOL stated the education and training program receiving grants are designed to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths by providing the knowledge and tools that workers and employers need to identify and correct workplace safety and health hazards. This grant program is a crucial component to OSHA’s effort to provide workers with training about hazards and their rights. It also provides employers with information about working conditions and their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970.

The training grants are named in honor of the late Susan Harwood, a former director of the Office of Risk Assessment in OSHA’s health standards directorate. She died in 1996. During her 17 year tenure with the agency, Ms. Harwood helped develop OSHA standards to protect employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens, cotton dust, benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos and lead in construction.

Under the OSHAct, the agency’s role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards, providing training and outreach and education programs.

OSHA establishes “Watch List” to strengthen program

08.29.09

September 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

OSHA establishes “Watch List” to strengthen program

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 14th- The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in an effort to crack down on fraudulent trainers, is continuing to strengthen the integrity of its 36 year old Outreach training Program by publishing an “Outreach Watch List” of those who have their trainer authorizations either revoked or suspended.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA’s role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America’s working people by setting and enforcing standards, and provide training, outreach and education.

OSHA recently conducted an undercover investigation as part of its heightened effort to address fraudulent activity by trainers authorized through the OSHA Outreach Training Program. The investigation of a 10-hour course conducted by Don Barker, environmental health and safety director for Thor Construction in Las Vegas, revealed several examples of failure to comply with program guidelines. Barker’s infractions included submitting falsified information regarding the instructional time spent on the topics, failing to collect and retain required documentation and inappropriately advising students not to contact OSHA to report hazards.

OSHA revoked Barker’s Outreach Training authorization after he declined to appeal the decision and his name has been added to the “Watch List” on OSHA’s Web site. To review if any trainer is listed from the Lehigh Valley the watch List is available at: https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction general industry/watchlist.html. The list is updated weekly.

OSHA is monitoring training programs and has provided a hotline at (847) 297-4810 for individuals to file complaints about fraud and abuse.

“Trainers who fail to provide appropriate safety training will pay a stiff price for their fraudulent behavior. A tighter record control procedure has been instituted requiring trainers to sign their reports and certify the class was conducted in accordance with OSHA’s guidelines. Trainers face civil and criminal penalties under federal law if reports or certifications are found to have been falsified,” said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

The voluntary Outreach Training Program has grown to a national network of more than 16,000 independent trainers eligible to teach workers and employers about workplace hazards and provide OSHA 10-hour course completion cards. The program’s success has prompted some states and cities to legislate a requirement that workers complete training to earn an OSHA 10-hour card as a condition of employment.

Trainers are authorized by completing a one-week OSHA trainer course through an OSHA Training Institute Education Center. The trainers are then eligible to teach 10-hour programs that provide basic information to workers and employers about workplace hazards and OSHA, and 30-hour courses in construction, maritime and general industry safety and health hazards.

D.C. labor family mourns the loss of three in Metro tragedy; ATU decries rush to blame operator

06.27.09

http://www.examiner.com/x-2071-DC-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2009m6d25-DC-labor-family-mourns-the-loss-of-three-in-Metro-tragedy-ATU-decries-rush-to-blame-operator

by Ron Moore

It is at times like this when the term Family of Labor takes on a poignant meaning that cannot be defeated by the opponents of labor. While mourning the loss of three labor Sisters, ATU Local 689 member Jeanice McMillan, CWA member Mary Doolittle and SEIU 32BJ member Ana Fernandez, the responsibility to represent Metro union members must not be neglected.

Shamelessly, the anti-union Drudge Report suggested that “texting” by the operator may be a contributing factor on its headline page while the actual story made no mention of texting. Attempts to determine causation and ensure the safety of workers and riders will take months of careful investigation and first reports indicate management not operator failure. But to reflexively blame management is unfair so early in the investigation.

In response to the tragedy Warren S. George, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the entire International Union, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our fallen member, Jeanise McMillan, and all of those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.

“With regard to the accident, I think it is unfair and unacceptable to speculate that the ATU operator may have been in any way responsible for the incident. Until a fair and thorough investigation is completed there will be no basis for statements implying that anyone or anything is to blame for the accident.

“The International fully supports [Washington, DC’s Local 689] President Jackie Jeter’s call for honesty and a full disclosure of the facts during the investigation.”

It is at times like this when the rallying cry Don’t Mourn Organize motivates the Family of Labor as members who will march today for health care for all, in support of Iranian freedom fighters and union leaders and lobby for the Employee Free Choice Act. It is a poignant reminder that a strong labor movement is the most effective way to build a strong community.

For additional information about supporting the families of those lost go the Community Services Agency of the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO donation site. http://partners.guidestar.org/controller/searchResults.gs?action_donateReport=1&partner=networkforgood&ein=52-1718506

Department of Labor’s budget increased to $104.5 billion

06.22.09

June 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Department of Labor’s budget increased to $104.5 billion

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 28th- The United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis stated the Obama Administration has outlined the agency’s fiscal year 2010 budget which will restore worker protection programs and revitalize employment opportunities for the American workforce.

Secretary Solis said the Obama Administration’s budget launches new and innovative ways to promote economic recovery and the competitiveness of the nation’s workers and at the same time cuts or reduces programs that does not help the American working public.

The budget requests $104.5 billion with the majority to be used for unemployment insurance benefits for displaced workers and federal workers’ compensation. The discretionary request of $13.3 billion allocates $1.7 billion for worker protection programs, a ten percent increase over the prior year’s budget.

DOL expects to hire nearly 1,000 new employees, including 670 investigators, restoring worker protection staffing to 2001 levels. The Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration (OSHA) budget is $564 million, which is $51 million more than the agency received in fiscal year 2009.

U.S. Department of Labor strengthens integrity of OSHA’s Outreach Training Program

06.18.09

June 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

U.S. Department of Labor strengthens integrity of OSHA’s Outreach Training Program

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in an effort to crack down on fraudulent trainers, is strengthening the integrity of its 36 year old Outreach Training Program by improving how trainers become authorized to teach and ensuring these trainers are in compliance with OSHA program guidelines.

The voluntary program has grown to a national network of more than 16,000 independent trainers eligible to teach workers and employers about workplace hazards and to provide OSHA 10-hour course completion cards. However, some trainers have fraudulently not provided the appropriate training in accordance with the program.

Trainers are authorized by completing a one-week OSHA trainer course through an OSHA Training Institute Education Center. The trainers are then eligible to teach 10-hour programs that provide basic information to workers and employers about workplace hazards and OSHA, and 30-hour courses in construction, maritime and general safety and health hazards.

The program’s success has prompted some states and cities to legislate a requirement that workers complete training to earn an OSHA 10-hour card as a condition of employment. Because this training is becoming a requirement for gaining employment, the program has experienced fraudulent activity.

OSHA has increased monitoring visits to verify that trainers are in compliance with program requirements. The agency requires trainers to certify their classes and ensuring that training documentation is in accordance with OSHA’s guidelines before trainers can receive course completion cards.

OSHA’s regional office is located in Wilkes-Barre. The Compliance Assistance Specialist can be contacted at (570) 826-6538.

Wal-Mart fined for death of employee during holiday season

06.18.09

June 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Wal-Mart fined for death of employee during holiday season

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, June 1st- The United States Department of labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office in Westbury, New York has cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for inadequate crowd management following the November 28th, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, New York store. The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store for its annual “Blitz Friday” pre-holiday sales event.

Agency inspection found that the store’s employees were exposed to being crushed by the crowd due to the store’s failure to implement reasonable and effective crowd management principles. This failure includes providing employees with the necessary training and tools to safety manage the large crowd of shoppers.

Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s acting Area Director for the Long Island Office, stated Wal-Mart did not properly plan for the event and should have known the sale would attract a huge amount of customers, putting their employees at risk of injury.

“This was an unusual situation but not an unforeseen one. The store should have recognized based on prior “Blitz Friday” experiences, the need to implement effective crowd management to protect its employees,” said Mr. Ciuffo.

As a result, OSHA has issued Wal-Mart one serious citation under its general duty clause for exposing workers to the recognized hazard of being crushed by the crowd. The citation carriers a proposed fine of $7,000, the maximum penalty amount for a serious violation allowed under the law. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

“Effective planning and crowd management could have prevented this incident and its grave consequences. Wal-Mart must now take steps to ensure that a situation such as this one never happens again,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

According to the agency, Wal-Mart has 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, particiapte in an informal conference with the OSHA director, or contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Accupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace.

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council honors workers killed on the job

05.12.09

May 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Wilkes-Barre Labor Council honors workers killed on the job

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 25th- The Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council labor federation held their fifth annual Workers’ Memorial Day observance on April 23rd at the International Union of Operating Engineers (IOUE) Local 542 Union Hall in Wilkes-Barre.

The organization conducted a “Candlelight Vigil,” that was attended by approximately 35 union embers and supporters. The program was held to honor workers in Luzerne County who have lost their lives while on the job over the past year, as well as those killed in work related fatalities in the past.

Since 1989 the labor community throughout the nation have held events recognizing April 28th, 1970, the anniversary date of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct).

A workers special prayer was read by Reverend Patrick Sullivan of Kings College.

Pennsylvania State Representative, 121st Legislative District, Eddie Day Pashinski, who is a union member, read a State House Resolution recognizing April 23rd as Workers Memorial Day for 2009 in Luzerne County.

Those workers who have been killed on the job this past year and remembered were:

•William Hoover, a member of the United Food and Commerical Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776 and a employee of the City of Pittston Maintenance Department who died on March 13th, 2009.

•Tim Ulmer, an employee of Conway Freight in Wilkes-Barre, who died on October 15th, 2008.

Although not killed while on the job, a special remembrance was paid to Robert Kubicki of Plains Township. Mr. Kubicki was a member of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 840. He was killed in an automobile accident while on his way to work an overtime assignment.

It was noted that 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the Knox Coal Mine Disaster in Pittston. The mine disaster killed 12 miners and their names were acknowledged.

The names of two former employees of Air Products and members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union Local Lodge 2200 who were killed while on the job in the past were read. The two killed were:

• Robert Doman, died on November 18th, 1984; and

• Lance Johnson, who died on November 9th, 1955.

The list of workers who lost their lives because of work related injuries in the Wyoming Valley contains more than 800 names.

Philadelphia Labor Honors Workers Memorial Day

05.09.09

by John Mason

The Philadelphia Labor community commemorated workers killed on the job at the Workers’ Memorial Day breakfast, held at the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, 1301 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, on Friday, April 24, 2009.

The event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and the Philadelphia Central Labor Council AFL-CIO.

Terry Gallagher, President of the PHILAPOSH board, welcomed those in attendance, especially the families of workers killed in occupational accidents. Elizabeth McElroy, Assistant to the President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Patrick Eiding, spoke and brought the greetings “from the 200,000 working men and women who belong to unions, who live and work in Philadelphia every day.”

Of the task of honoring workers killed on the job, McElroy said, “It’s something we have to do, unfortunately, we have to come together to honor those who gave their lives in the workplace. But we all look to the day when we (can) celebrate, because nobody gave their life in the workplace. Until that day comes, we’ll continue to fight and struggle for safety on the job.”

PHILAPOSH director Barbara Rahke said, “We are (here) to honor those who lost their lives by going to work every day. We’re also here to talk about change and the need to renew our desire to fight for safety for all workers on the job.” Rahke expressed her pleasure “that such a huge response once again has come out for this event.”

Nineteen different labor bodies, said Rahke, were represented in the breakfast, from such unions as AFSCME, Teamsters, Sheet Metal workers, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Steel Workers, Chester County (PA) Central Labor Council, and UE, along with labor support groups, such as the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, the Comey Institute at St. Joseph’s University, the Temple University’s School of Public Health, Philadelphia Area Labor Management (PALM), Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, Center for Construction Research and Training, and attorneys who have worked to gain benefits for injured workers.

Rahke also introduced the families of workers killed on the job who attended the event -Jeff Davis, who died from an explosion at a refinery; Scott Shaw, who also died in a refinery; Jeffery Martin, who died in a fall at a construction site; John Roberts, who was crushed during a tree removal; Police Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski, who was killed trying to stop a robbery; Mathew Holmes; Richie Brady, who was fatally struck by an SUV at a construction site; and Gregory Martin.

The keynote speaker was US Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA). Murphy said to the gathered labor activists, “I’m here to break bread with you,” and to the family of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, he said, “You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers, and we love you…with every fiber of our being.”

Murphy spoke of the first time he ran for Congress, and that the incumbent we ran against was well financed: “I said I’m going to do this,” Murphy recalled, “for the nineteen guys I served with in Iraq who never made it home.” Murphy commended the support he received from PHILAPOSH Broad member John Greer, “who gave me a chance when no one else would, they believed in me when no one else did.” Murphy added, “They believed in me because I was part of this family, those who join unions, folks who know what it’s like to wake up every day and work to make our country better.”

Murphy said that the United States is the greatest nation on the planet was “because of everyone in this room,” the working men and women in the nation: “Every day,” he said, “they wake up, put their clothes on and go to work, and try to make a better life for their families, and put food on their table (and) pay the bills. But they made America number one.”

Murphy mentioned the “tea party” anti-tax movement put on by the right wing, and of the involvement of the federal government in the economy, saying, “I believe in a limited government that says, ‘we need to be a proper referee to make sure that under capitalism, they don’t abuse the American family or the American worker.’” Murphy spoke of the need for regulating corporations, starting during the Industrial Revolution, “when nine or ten year olds were working sixty hours a week, and there was no environmental protection;” and the need for laws on occupational health and safety, minimum wage and child-labor laws, and environmental laws, “so that when you go fishing, and you want to make the fish for dinner that night, you don’t have to go to the hospital the next day; so that when you turn on your faucet and you take water out, it’s okay to drink.”

Speaking of his support for the right of workers to organize into unions, and for the Employee Free Choice Act, Murphy that the in Department of Labor each year, “There are twenty thousand cases brought up for wrongful termination by people in the workplace just trying to organize, just trying to exercise their constitutional right … (these are) wrongful firings because they’re trying to unionize.”

John DeFazio, Director of District 10 of the United Steel Workers, was the following speaker. “We are here today,” he said, “to remember those who have been injured and killed in the workplace. We want companies to be held accountable when they put profits ahead of workers’ health and safety.”

The past Bush II administration, said DeFazio, “did not prosecute ninety-three percent of the fatalities caused by willful violation of OSHA standards as criminal violations.” More American workers died last year on the job, he added, than during the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Afghanistan war, and in the Iraq war.

DeFazio spoke about how business groups took out TV ads making false claims against the Employee Free Choice Act, saying, “When the National Labor Relations Act came in (during) 1935, workers always had the right to vote by secret ballot, or by card check… This changed in 1974, when the employer had the choice. All we’re trying to do now is make it an even, fair playing field, when the employees have that right again.” DeFazio then read a proclamation, from the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Council commemorating Workers Memorial Day in Allegheny County.

Dr. Arthur Frank, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the School of Public Health of Drexel University, Frank raised the question, “What is an academic guy doing here? What kind of role do I have?” Frank recalled “sixty two years ago yesterday, my dad was killed on the job, while my mother was pregnant with me. I understand the people we honor today, because my household was affected very much the same way.”

Frank said that his specialty is “occupational medicine, and there are only a thousand of us in this country who are trained to do what we do. “ Frank added, “I think about the failures we have in this country, (such as ) the failures in leadership in places like Washington, that pass laws (but) don’t enforce them, and they don’t inspect workplaces, and they don’t get after companies that abuse their workers.”

Frank pointed out another failure, this one in the medical profession: “We have 850,000 doctors roughly in this country,” he said. “I take great pride in the fact that if you came to my office (at Drexel University), you’ll find my hard hat, my safety glasses, and my steel toed shoes, because I go out into workplaces.” Frank spoke of his work with such professions as Insulators, Sheet Metal Workers, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, and has gone into coal mines with UMWA members. “Not enough doctors,” he added, “know about the workplace, or ask, ‘What kind of work do you do?’”

Holly Shaw, chair of the PHILAPOSH Family Support Group, said to those gathered, “Thank you for acknowledging that worker safety is apriority. I’m hopeful that the new administration in Washington will make the changes needed that will force companies to confront safety issues. I believe we now have friends in Washington.” Shaw, who lost her husband in an industrial accident, said to the families of workers killed on the job, “I know the pain and grief that you are feeling, I know the hurt that you are experiencing, I know the frustration you have and I know the roadblocks that are placed before you. Please know that we are here to support each other, and take strength from that.”

Rosalie Hetrick, who lost her husband who was employed by Verizon, spoke next. “I lost my husband, my friend, my soul mate, to a work related accident on May 21, 2008,” she said. “My life, the lives of our children, and the lives of our families and friends instantly morphed the moment my husband was killed. The last eleven months and two days have been saturated with grief and new experiences, disbelief and memories, and the determination to move into a direction that forces us to find some kind of solace and happiness. In my heart I have confidence that’s what Tom (her Husband) would have wanted for us.”

Hetrick recalled Tom’s career at Verizon, with his position as a line foreman, “Tom carried himself with grace and was genuine as well as loving, and kind and compassionate,” and “the most safety-conscious person I know. He was brilliant at quickly assessing situations and making informed decisions.” Hetrick spoke of one of Tom’s crew members, “in a very emotional state, that he pictures the accident every day, he sees Tom flying through the air (and) landing on his head. He told me he gave (Tom) CPR, and he tasted Tom’s blood in his mouth for a week.”

The program concluded with a funeral procession from the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, down Christopher Columbus Boulevard, to the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Brian Widelitz played the bagpipes for the procession, and Rabbi Mordechai Leibling said the Twenty-Third Psalm. Then participants lined up to read the names of people killed in workplace accidents as they threw roses into the Delaware River, while Widelitz played “Amazing Grace.”

Workers Memorial Day 2009 in Pennsylvania

04.21.09

Workers’ Memorial Day Radio Advertisement

Mourn for the dead and fight for the living. Words spoken over a century ago by Mother Jones, labor leader and union organizer who helped inspire hundreds of thousands of coal miners to organize to abolish child labor and hazardous working conditions in the mines. Today it means renewing our commitment to a safe workplace for every worker in this nation. The week of April 28 hundreds of thousands will join in observing Workers Memorial Day across Pennsylvania and around the country. Families of those who lost their lives, injured workers, union workers elected officials and more join hands in remembering fallen workers and fighting for safer jobs. Each year thousands of workers are killed and millions more injured or diseased because of their jobs. After eight years of neglect and inaction by the Bush administration we now have the opportunity to change the direction of this country to strengthen job safety protections and to make sure workers’ voices are heard. Join us in observing Workers Memorial Day. Contact the AFL-CIO Central labor Council or area labor federation to participate in the event in your area. This message is from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO: Bill George, President; Rick Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer
## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##

Workers’ Memorial Day 2009 for Pennsylvania

On April 28 workers around the country and in Pennsylvania will join in observing Workers Memorial Day remembering those who have suffered or died on the job and renew the fight for safe jobs. Thousands of workers will be participating in events (listed below) in Pennsylvania. You and your members are encouraged to join in helping make these events a complete success. If you know of an event that is not on this list please contact Jim Deegan 717-231-2867 or editor@paaflcio.org with the details. Help us win the fight for safer jobs for all workers

Allegheny County Labor Council, the United Steelworkers,
the Labor and Religion Coalition of Western Pennsylvania,
and the Washington/Greene County Labor Council
Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:00 Noon
PLACE: Market Square, Downtown Pittsburgh
SPEAKERS: Most Reverend David A. Zubic, Bishop of Pittsburgh
Sean McGarvey, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades
Reverend John Welch, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Chief Chaplain
Jim Klingensmith, Exec. Vice President, Allegheny County Labor Council
Rich Stanizzo, President, Joint Board, Pitts. Building and Construction Trades
CONTACT: Joe Delale, 412-456-6851

Erie-Crawford Central Labor Council Workers’ Memorial Service

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 6:00 PM
PLACE: Erie Municipal Bldg. City Council Chambers
606 State Street, Erie, PA
SPEAKERS: to be announced
CONTACT: Erie-Crawford CLC, 814-455-4752

Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council and Pennsylvania Federation of Injured Workers
Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremonies

DATE: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
EVENT: Memorial Ceremony at Labor’s Grove
TIME: 9:00 AM
PLACE: Riverfront Park, 300 Block of South Front St. Harrisburg, PA
SPEAKERS: to be announced
CONTACT: Harrisburg Region CLC 717-561-7830

DATE: Tuesday, April 28, 2009
EVENT: PA Fed. Of Injured Workers Press Conference/Ceremony
TIME: 11:00 AM
PLACE: State Capitol Rotunda Gallery
SPEAKERS: to be announced
CONTACT: Dennis Straub, PFIW, 888-376-7942 or Bob Scholeck, PFIW, 570-366-8660

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:00 Noon
EVENT: Workers’ Memorial Day Lunch
PLACE: United Steelworkers Local 1688 Hall, 200 Gibson St. Steelton, PA
SPEAKERS: to be announced
TICKETS: Lunch tickets are $7.00 per person, phone 717-561-7830 or e-mail; hbgclc@verizon.net
CONTACT: Harrisburg Region CLC, 717-561-7830

Indiana – Armstrong – Clarion Central Labor Council Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremonies

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
EVENT: Young Democrats of Clarion Univ. and Organized Labor Workers’ Memorial Observance PLACE: Clarion Campus Student Union Bldg. Rooms 250-252
Corner of Payne St and Wilson Ave. Clarion, PA 16214
SPEAKERS: Area labor leaders , teachers, and students will share the
speaker’s podium for Improvements in Job Safety
CONTACT: Aaron Fitzpatrick 814-590-4886 or afitzpatrick@live.com
Important Note: You will need a parking pass. Call or e-mail Aaron Fitzpatrick

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:00 Noon
EVENT: Indiana – Armstrong - Clarion CLC and PA Center for the Study of Labor Relations
Indiana Univ. Workers Memorial Service
PLACE: Indiana University of PA.
SPEAKERS: to be announced
CONTACT: Cynthia Spielman, 877-314-0581

Greater Johnstown Regional Central Labor Council
20th Annual Workers’ Memorial Day Banquet and Essay Contest

DATE/TIME: Friday, May 1, 2009 at 6:00 PM
PLACE: Christ the Saviour Educational Center
307 Garfield Street, Johnstown, PA
SPEAKER: John DeFaFazio, Director, Dist. 10 United Steelworkers
Essay Scholarship Contest winners to be announced
Scholarship Co-sponsors: Congressman John Murtha; Ameriserv Financial;
USW Local 6521; and Cambria County Commissioners
CONTACT: Ernie Esposito, President Greater Johnstown CLC 814-535-7621

Lehigh Valley Labor Council
Workers’ Memorial Day Observance

DATE/TIME: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 1:00 PM
PLACE: Workers’ Memorial Monument, Bethlehem Rose Garden
8th Avenue and Union Blvd.
SPEAKERS: Brief speakers program followed by reading of names of 700 workers who
lost their lives while at work in Lehigh Valley
CONTACT: John Werkheiser, 610-513-9969 or jw1776@aol.com

Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH)
21ST Annual Workers’ Memorial Day Breakfast and Memorial Service

DATE/TIME: Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:30 AM Registration and at 9:00 AM Breakfast
PLACE: Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 1301 S. Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia 19147
March to the Great Plaza Penn’s Landing for Memorial Ceremony at 10:45 AM
SPEAKERS: PA AFL-CIO President Bill George
Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-8th C.D.
Dr. Arthur Frank, Chairmen, Dept of Occupational and Environmental Health Dept., Drexel University
Rosalie Hetrick, widow of fallen worker
CONTACT: Patrick Eiding, President, Phila. AFL-CIO 215-665-9800 or
Barbara Rahke, Dir. PhilaPosh 215-386-7000

York/Adams County Central Labor Council
Workers’ Memorial Day Observance

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 6:00 PM
PLACE: Kiwanis Lake, York, PA
SPEAKERS: Robert Garraty, Exec. Dir. PA Workforce Investment Bd.
CONTACTS: Clark Ruppert, Jr., President, York/Adams CLC 717-764-0537 or cell 717-683-7793
Kittie Hake, Chair Workers’ Mem. Committee 717-843-8911

On the Hill, Fire Fighters Push for Bargaining Bill

03.20.09

On the Hill, Fire Fighters Push for Bargaining Bill

by Mike Hall, Mar 17, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/03/17/on-the-hill-fire-fighters-push-for-bargaining-bill/

Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other congressional leaders told more than 1,000 members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) yesterday that legislation protecting the freedom of firefighters in all states to join unions and bargain for a better life will be approved and signed into law.

Today, IAFF members are on Capitol Hill shoring up support for that bill and other vital working family legislation as part of the union’s 2009 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

In his opening remarks, IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said that it has been 74 years since the National Labor Relations Act—which covers private-sector workers, but not firefighters and other first responders and public employees—became law.

We’re not going to allow our members to wait any longer. We’ve waited long enough. It’s time for passage of our collective bargaining bill. It’s been 74 years that we’ve been waiting on the outside looking in for that federally guaranteed right.

More than 20 states do not fully protect the bargaining rights of firefighters and other first responders. Two states—Virginia and North Carolina—prohibit public safety employees from collectively bargaining. Said Biden:

The Public Safety Cooperation Act, blocked by the last administration, will pass this time and the president will sign it. He will sign it with pride.

The bill would protect the collective bargaining rights of tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and other public safety officers. Last year, the bill passed the House, but Republican senators were able to block Senate consideration. The legislation guarantees first responders:

The right to join a union.
The right to have their union recognized by their employer.
The right to bargain collectively over hours, wages and terms and conditions of employment.
A fact-finding, mediation or arbitration process for resolving an impasse in negotiations.
Enforcement of these rights, and of written contracts, through state courts.
Schaitberger also stressed that the IAFF will bring its strength and influence to bear in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act to restore the freedom of workers to join unions and bargain for a better life.

Turning to the economy, Schaitberger said the economic crisis is forcing cities and states to drastically cut budgets, threatening public safety.

The results are in small towns like Greenfield, Ohio, and in the largest cities like New York City, our members are faced with furloughs, layoffs, brownouts, shutting down companies and closing stations. Without an enormous influx of resources, the budgets that provide the very foundation for our nation’s public safety would likely be raided.

Now is not the time to allow the frontline of our nation’s homeland defense to be weakened.

Biden said the Obama administration is committed to getting firefighters the equipment, training and additional staffing they need to do their jobs.

We’ve already increased funding for stations, equipment, better training, more protective clothing….We’re committed to increasing funding for SAFER, which will go directly to fire departments so they can hire more trained firefighters to work by your sides—and this is important—retain the firefighters who are in danger, of being laid off.

Click here http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-Vice-President-to-the-International-Association-of-Firefighters-at-their-2009-Legislative-Conference/ to read Biden’s full remarks and here http://www.iaff.org to watch Schaitberger’s and Pelosi’s remarks, as well as those of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano, who also spoke to the delegates.

OSHA and Cintas reach agreement for violations of OSHAct

01.09.09

January 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA and Cintas reach agreement for violations of OSHAct

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, December 22nd- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the agency has reached an agreement with Cintas Inc. that the company will pay almost $3 million in penalties to resolve six cases currently pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

All of the cases involve citations OSHA issued to Cintas for failing to lock out hazardous energy sources on industrial laundry equipment while employees were servicing the equipment. One case arose from OSHA’s investigation of a fatal accident in which an employee fell into a dryer while attempting to open a jammed conveyor.

Under the agreement, Cintas will pay 90 percent of the amount originally proposed, and make substantial safety and health enhancements at all of its commercial laundry facilities regulated by federal OSHA. The agreement also requires Cintas to certify that it has implemented immediate interim measures to protect employees working in wash areas at these Cintas facilities.

The company will retain a team of independent experts, including an auditor who will ensure that the interim controls are effective; an expert in hazard analysis and controls who will review Cintas facilities and recommend permanent controls; and additional experts who will review the company’s safety and health management systems to recommend improvements to those systems. Those improvements will include hiring additional professional safety and health staff, conducting more frequent internal safety inspections, establishing new systems to examine safety and health complaints and accident trends, and providing increased training to Cintas management and employees. OSHA will continue to inspect Cintas facilies and will enforce the terms of the settlement agreement.

“This agreement ensures that Cintas employees in federal OSHA states nationwide will receive the protections mandated by OSHA’s standards. Cintas also has agreed to a number of other measures that will help create a more safety conscious corporate culture. This settlement agreement makes such measures binding on the company,” stated acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas Stohler.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration’s rule is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training; outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvements in workplace safety and health.

The regional OSHA office in located in Wilkes-Barre at 7 North Wilkes-Barre Avenue, in the Stegmaier Building, Suite 410.

The agency’s telephone number is 826-6538 and their fax number is 821-4170.

Under Bush, OSHA Mired in Inaction

12.29.08

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122802124.html?hpid=topnews

In early 2001, an epidemiologist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to publish a special bulletin warning dental technicians that they could be exposed to dangerous beryllium alloys while grinding fillings. Health studies showed that even a single day’s exposure at the agency’s permitted level could lead to incurable lung disease.

OSHA Memorandum

After the bulletin was drafted, political appointees at the agency gave a copy to a lobbying firm hired by the country’s principal beryllium manufacturer, according to internal OSHA documents. The epidemiologist, Peter Infante, incorporated what he considered reasonable changes requested by the company and won approval from key directorates, but he bristled when the private firm complained again.

“In my 24 years at the Agency, I have never experienced such indecision and delay,” Infante wrote in an e-mail to the agency’s director of standards in March 2002. Eventually, top OSHA officials decided, over what Infante described in an e-mail to his boss as opposition from “the entire OSHA staff working on beryllium issues,” to publish the bulletin with a footnote challenging a key recommendation the firm opposed.

Current and former career officials at OSHA say that such sagas were a recurrent feature during the Bush administration, as political appointees ordered the withdrawal of dozens of workplace health regulations, slow-rolled others, and altered the reach of its warnings and rules in response to industry pressure.

The result is a legacy of unregulation common to several health-protection agencies under Bush: From 2001 to the end of 2007, OSHA officials issued 86 percent fewer rules or regulations termed economically significant by the Office of Management and Budget than their counterparts did during a similar period in President Bill Clinton’s tenure, according to White House lists.

White House officials have dismissed such tallies, emphasizing in recent regulatory overviews that their “objective is quality, not quantity,” and that heavy restrictions on corporations harm economic performance. During Bush’s presidency, they said in a September report, average annual regulatory costs were kept 24 percent lower than during the previous two decades. OSHA says it has issued many rules of lesser consequence that nonetheless clarified industry responsibilities.

But this record has been controversial among occupational health experts and career OSHA staff.

“The legacy of the Bush administration has been one of dismal inaction,” said Robert Harrison, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and chairman of the occupational health section of the American Public Health Association. It has been “like turning a ketchup bottle upside down, banging the bottom of the container, and nothing comes out. You shake and shake and nothing comes out,” Harrison said.

More than two dozen current and former senior career officials further said in interviews that the agency’s strategic choices were frequently made without input from its experienced hands. Political appointees “shut us out,” a longtime senior career official said.

Among the regulations proposed by OSHA’s staff but scuttled by political appointees was one meant to protect health workers from tuberculosis. Although OSHA concluded in 1997 that the regulation could avert as many as 32,700 infections and 190 deaths annually and save $115 million, it was blocked by opposition from large hospitals.

In the summer, the agency decided against moving further toward the regulation of crystalline silica, the tiny fibrous material in cement and stone dust that causes lung disease or cancer. OSHA promised a scientific peer review of the health risks by early 2005 and then by early 2007, but it never acted. Regulating silica exposures would have prevented an estimated 41 silicosis deaths and 20 to 40 lung cancers annually, according to OSHA.

In the spring, political appointees quietly scrapped work on another long-pending regulation of hazardous exposure to ionizing radiation in mailrooms, food warehouses, and hospitals and airports. It cited “resource constraints and other priorities” ## the same reason officials gave for withdrawing more than a dozen regulatory proposals in 2001….

(Click on link to read the rest of this story.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/28/AR2008122802124.html?hpid=topnews

Robert H. Zieger: Labor did it’ again

11.23.08

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20081109/OPINION03/811080968

By Robert H. Zieger
Special to The Sun

In 1948 when Harry Truman was asked to what he attributed his stunning upset victory over Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey, he replied “Labor did it.”

He was referring to the unprecedented commitment of financial and manpower support to his candidacy contributed by the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial organizations (CIO), at that time separate national labor bodies.

The endless TV, newspaper, and Internet discussions in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s remarkable victory brought Truman’s quip to mind. Pundits have highlighted a number of factors to account for Obama’s showing.

African-Americans turned out in massive numbers, awarding the Democratic candidate a remarkable 97 percent of their votes.

Obama, it appears, won the battle for the “hearts and minds” of Latino and Hispanic voters, seemingly by a two-to-one majority.

Fifty-five percent of women supported him, as apparently did a majority of voters earning over $200,000 in family income.

Virtually every expert has highlighted the vote of young people, noting both the massive turnout among those in the 18-to-29 year-old bracket and the 70 percent support they awarded Obama.

Neglected in most of these postmortems, however, is the role that organized labor played in the campaign. Indeed, in this election the AFL-CIO and its affiliated organizations conducted labor’s largest political mobilization ever.

Consider these facts:

* Union members and their families comprised about 21 percent of the voting public.

* Union voters backed the Obama-Biden ticket overwhelmingly. Sixty-nine percent supported the Democratic candidate. In key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Florida, Obama-Biden outpolled McCain-Palin by 41 points among union voters.

* More than 250,000 union volunteers walked the neighborhoods and distributed flyers. They made 70 million phone calls.

* The AFL-CIO’s My Vote, My Right program protected voters from harassment and petty challenges by placing 2,700 union volunteer poll monitors at key locations.

* While McCain captured a majority among those over 65 years old, retired union members supported Obama by a 46 point margin.

* McCain won among veterans, but union veterans went for Obama by a 25-point margin.

Labor activist are well aware that President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority will face difficult issues and will have to be responsive to a wide diversity of viewpoints.

At the same time, however, working people and their unions do expect that their efforts in the campaign entitle them to sympathetic consideration of their legislative and political goals. They are determined to promote health care reform, more equitable taxation, and changes in economic policy that will benefit low-wage and middle-income families.

They seek pro-worker appointments to regulatory bodies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Labor Relations Board.

High on their legislative agenda is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would facilitate the efforts of workers to gain union representation and to achieve the benefits of collective bargaining.

Despite organized labor’s role in Truman’s 1948 victory, few of its legislative goals were subsequently realized. Recognition of the unions’ efforts in the recent election may help to prevent history from repeating itself.

Robert H. Zieger is a distinguished professor of history emeritus at the University of Florida.

Last-Minute Bush Push Threatens Safety, Family Leave, Environmental Rules

11.16.08

Last-Minute Bush Push Threatens Safety, Family Leave, Environmental Rules

by Mike Hall, Nov 12, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/11/12/last-minute-bush-push-threatens-safety-family-leave-environmental-rules/

The Bush White House is making “a last minute assault on the public” with a slew of end-of-term regulations that could roll back or weaken rules on job safety, family leave, airline safety and pollution.

Matthew Madia, of the nonprofit watchdog group OMB Watch, told reporters earlier this month:

It’s environmental regulations, it’s workers’ safety, it’s reproductive health, it’s traffic safety, but the common theme is in a lot a cases the Bush administration is trying to remove restrictions on business and allow them to operate without any kind of government oversight….It’s intended to make sure that the kind of ideology and priorities that the Bush administration believes in are affecting the country for many years.

According to The Washington Post, at least 90 new regulations are in the works and if they become final before Bush leaves office: they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

New regulations become final after they are published in the Federal Register but usually don’t go into effect until a 60-day congressional comment period expires. But ABC News reports that some of the proposed regulations have had the comment period drop from the traditional 60 days to just over 30 days.

Such a short comment period ensures last-minute regulations will be in effect when President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20. That’s why, the Post says, the business community is pressing hard for the Bush administration to move quickly.

…lobbyists…fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

The incoming Obama administration does have a tool it could use to undo the last minute regulations—the Congressional Review Act (CRA). It is the same procedure Bush used to overturn the Clinton administration’s workplace ergonomics rule that wasn’t finalized until the end of Clinton’s second term.

Under the little-used CRA, a regulation that is enacted within 60 days of congressional adjournment—Oct. 3 this year—can be reviewed and overturned by a simple majority vote in both houses and Senate filibusters are not allowed. Politico reports congressional Democrats are considering a CRA strategy for some of the last-minute Bush rules.

OMB Watch says some of the controversial Bush rules have been finalized and the comment-clock is ticking, including a regulation that will make it more difficult for workers to use family and medical leave and another easing air pollution emissions standards on refineries.

One of the rules that has not been finalized but could be any day is the “secret rule” that could lead to increased exposure of workers to dangerous chemicals and toxins by changing the way worker exposure is measured.

The rule was pushed by Bush political appointees over the objections of career health and safety professionals and kept secret until media reports in July revealed the plan.

While the Bush White House is moving quickly to ease rules on industry, workers, as they have been for the past eight years, remain shut out.

There are dozens of important workplace safety and health rules that remain buried in the Bush administration. Those proposals include rules to protect workers from exposure to dangerous substances and chemicals such as silica, which can cause serious respiratory disease; diacetyl, a flavoring additive linked to “popcorn lung”; and beryllium, a light metal that can cause lung damage, especially to metal and dental workers.

In addition, the Bush administration refuses to develop combustible dust rules that could help prevent explosions like the one in February at an Imperial Sugar plant that killed 13 workers.

The consequential Congress: Part 2: Obama will need congressional allies to advance a working family agenda.

10.07.08

The consequential Congress
Part 2: Obama will need congressional allies to advance a working family agenda.

by Ron Ennis, Lehigh Valley Postal Workers
Editor, Lehigh Valley Labor Council

Behind the historic presidential race between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain looms an equally important contest: the battle for control of the U.S. Congress. With the House and Senate so evenly divided, a single congressional race could make all the difference.

The party that emerges victorious on November 4th must quickly calm the financial storms that have overwhelmed working families. Their decisions will set the tone for the nation’s economy for years to come.

To help sort things out, the News & Views examined last month the 2005-2007 voting records of our area House representatives on economic and labor issues. We continue with that examination as well as a review of their voting patterns on the Iraq War and energy policy.

PA AFL-CIO Congressional Endorsements

Bold type indicates endorsed candidate.

Incumbent Incumbent’s cumulative Challenger
AFL-CIO Voting Record

6th Jim Gerlach (R) 41% Bob Roggio (D)
8th Patrick Murphy (D) 92 Tom Manion (R)
10th Chris Carney (D) 92 Chris Hackett (R)
11th Paul Kanjorski (D) 92 Louis Barletta (R)
13th Allyson Schwartz (D) 96 Marina Kats (R)
15th Charles Dent (R) 42 Sam Bennett(D)
17th Tim Holden (D) 92 Toni Gilhooley(R)

LABOR & THE ECONOMY

HR 5522 (Roll Call #233): Combustible-Dust Rules – April 30, 2008.

The House passed legislation directing OSHA to adopt rules for controlling combustible dust at factories. The regulations would override any state rules that do less to protect workers from dust explosions and fires. The bill required interim rules within 90 days of passage and final rules within 18 months. A yes vote supported the bill, which passed the House 247-165, but faces an uncertain future because President Bush has threatened to veto the bill should it arrive on his desk.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 6049 (Roll Call #343): Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act motion to recommit with instructions – May 21, 2008.

The House passed a bill providing tax breaks for purposes such as spurring the production of non-fossil fuels, promoting energy conservation, stimulating business activity and helping homeowners and the working poor make ends meet. The $55.5 billion price tag was offset by tightening accounting rules on multinational corporations and closing offshore tax shelters used by some U.S. hedge fund mangers. In a failed attempt, Republicans sought to remove the tax increases on multinational firms and wealthy fund managers and, in effect, add the bill’s cost to the national debt. A yes vote favored the amendment, which was defeated 201-220.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Murphy (D-8th) No
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) No
Schwartz (D-13th) No
Dent (R-15th) Yes
Holden (D-17th) No

S Con. Res. 70 (Roll Call #382): 2013 Federal Budget – June 5, 2008.

Both the House and Senate adopted a conference report on a $3.03 trillion budget outline. The budget resolution is an advisory document that lays out total taxes and spending targets. Although the blueprint fully funds Bush’s defense and national security requests for the next five years, it projected a federal debt $67 billion less than the president’s and allowed the tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals to expire after 2010. The House approved the resolution 214-210. A yes vote advanced the proposal.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) No
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR5749 (Roll Call #410): Unemployment extension – June 12, 2008.

With news of the biggest surge in the nation’s jobless rate in 20 years, the House considered legislation providing 13 additional weeks of jobless checks for those who have used up their initial allotments, or 26 more weeks in states with at least a six percent unemployment rate. Since the 1950s, jobless benefits have been extended in every recession except one. The cost is modest by Washington standards, and the benefit is minimal – an average of just $300 a week. That’s $7.50 an hour for a 40-hour week. According to the Congressional Budget Office, roughly 3 million workers will exhaust their benefits this year. Others estimate that only about 36 percent of today’s jobless received unemployment. The bill’s projected $6.2 billion fiscal 2008 cost would be added to the national debt. House Republicans pointed out that the cost of the legislation did not comply with pay-as-you-go rules. Supporters of HR5749 tabled the objections and moved the legislation toward a vote. A yes vote tabled the GOP-protest 217-185. It should be noted that Gerlach and Dent supported a revised bill (Roll Call #412), which advanced to the Senate.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 6275 (Roll Call #454): Republican Alternative Minimum Tax Plan motion to recommit – June 25, 2008.

Republicans attempted to pass a motion to recommit HR 6275 to the Ways and Means Committee with instructions to strike language that would increase taxes on certain equity managers and corporations. Opponents of the motion reminded their colleagues that money from taxes was needed to pay for the AMT patch. The amendment also sought to raise the mileage deduction for the use of personal vehicles for charitable purposes. A yes vote supported the recommit, which failed 199-222.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Murphy (D-8th) No
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) No
Schwartz (D-13th) No
Dent (R-15th) Yes
Holden (D-17th) No

HR 6275 (Roll Call #455): Alternative Minimum Tax – June 25, 2008.

The House advanced a bill, 233-189, to exempt 22 million middle-income households from the Alternative Minimum Tax this year. The loss in revenue, estimated at $61.5 billion, would be offset, in part, by repealing certain tax breaks for oil and gas companies and close tax loopholes that benefit hedge fund managers and allow foreign multinational firms to avoid taxes on income earned in the U.S. A yes vote favored the bill, which moved to the Senate for consideration.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

WAR & NATIONAL SECURITY (12)

The sunny predictions of Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney in the years following the Iraq invasion, were eventually replaced with an admittance that U.S. troops had to remain to stem the escalating violence. Today, Bush and his congressional allies maintain that, although things are going well, U.S. troops must remain to avoid a return of violence. Whatever the conditions, supporters of the Iraq War have the same response: the troops cannot be brought home. The current Congress, supported by a majority of Americans, attempted to change the direction of the conflict during the past two years but was rebuffed by Bush veto threats and congressional filibusters.

HR 4939 (Roll Call #53, Amdt. #719): Port Security spending – March 16, 2006.

The House defeated an amendment to increase port security spending by $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2006. In part, the measure sought to expand overseas container inspections to all 140 ports that ship directly to the United States, more than tripling the number of ports doing such inspections. The bill to increase domestic port security spending was nixed 208-210.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Fitzpatrick (R-8th) Yes
Sherwood (R-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

H Res. 63 (Roll Call #99): Iraq Troop Build-Up – February 16, 2007.

On January 10, 2007, President Bush announced the decision to deploy additional troops to Iraq. Voting 246-182, the House passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the president’s decision to deploy 21,500 additional combat service personnel to Iraq, expanding the U.S. force there to at least 150,000 troops. The measure stated that Congress “will continue to support and protect” current and former U.S. troops in Iraq. While the 95-word resolution had no legal authority, it marked the first showdown between the president and Congress. Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution and two Democrats voted against it. A yes vote sent the resolution to the Senate.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 1591 (Roll Call #186): War Funding, Withdrawal – March 23, 2007.

Voting 218-212, the House passed an appropriations bill that earmarked an additional $100 billion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan while requiring the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to begin by March 2008. The bill’s troop pullout schedule would depend on the degree to which President Bush certifies progress by the Iraqi government in areas such as disarming militias and fair distribution of oil revenues. The withdrawal of all but a residual U.S. force could begin as early as July 2007, but no later than March 2008 and would last an estimated 180 days. Finally, the measure required that each federal agency that awarded at least $1 billion to contractors in the preceding fiscal year, establish and implement a plan to minimize the use of no-bid Halliburton-style contracts.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) did not vote
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR1591 (Roll Call #265): War Funding, Withdrawal - April 25, 2007.

Voting 218-208, the House approved the conference report on a bill that requires the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to start by October 1, 2007, but sets no mandatory date for completing the pullout of all but a residual force. The bill appropriates about $90 billion through September for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, $5.1 billion for military health care, including veterans care, $3.1 billion for base closures and $1.7 billion for military construction. Additionally, the bill provides nearly $25 billion for non-war programs. Bush vetoed the legislation on May 1, 2007.

Gerlach (R-6th ) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 1591 (Roll Call #276): Bush Iraq Veto – May 2, 2007.

Voting 222-203, the House failed to reach a two-thirds majority for overriding President Bush’s veto of a bill requiring the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq to start by October 1, 2007. “The vote showed clearly,” stated the Congressional Quarterly, “that House Democrats would not be able to override any veto of legislation that included language dictating a change in Iraq war policy.” The bill, which sets no mandatory date for completing the pullout, would appropriate $100 billion for combat operations and other military purposes and nearly $25 billion for non-war programs. It takes two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to override a veto. When one chamber fails to override, the other chamber – the Senate in this case – does not vote.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 2638 (Roll Call #454): Homeland Security Budget Amendment – June 12, 2007.

The House refused to freeze administrative costs in support of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the fiscal 2007 level. The amendment, which was defeated 201-221, sought to cut the proposed 2008 budget for Chertoff’s executive operations by $9.97 million, or 11 percent. A no vote opposed the clause.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Murphy (D-8th) No
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) No
Schwartz (D-13th) No
Dent (R-15th) Yes
Holden (D-17th) No

HR 2956 (Roll Call #624): Iraq Withdrawal Timetable – July 12, 2007.

The legislation stated that the 2002 authorization for war was to confront an Iraqi government that posed a threat to the United States. Since the current regime was now an ally, it “has to be responsible for (its) future course.” Therefore, the House, voting 223-201, sent the Senate a bill requiring the administration to begin reducing U.S. troop levels in Iraq within 120 days and complete the redeployment of all but a residual force by April 2008. The residual force would protect U.S. interests, train Iraqi forces and conduct strikes on terrorists. This bill received the most votes for a change in course in Iraq, far below the 284 needed to override an expected Bush veto.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 3159 (Roll Call #796): Rest & Recuperation from War – August 2, 2007.

Voting 229-194, the House sent the Senate a bill setting minimum periods of rest and recuperation for units and members of the regular and reserve components of the armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, the bill requires that active duty troops receive at least as much time back home as they served in the war zone. It also allowed the president and military service chiefs to waive these requirements in response to unforeseen circumstances.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 4156 (Roll Call #1108): War Funds and Iraq Pullout – November 14, 2007.

By a slim 218 -203 margin, the House sent the Senate a bill that attached $50 billion in war appropriations to a non-binding call for most U.S. troops to be removed from Iraq by December 15, 2008. The bill required U.S. civilian as well as military interrogators to obey the Army Field Manual’s ban on the torture of prisoners. The money was the first payment on Bush’s $196 billion request for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2008. A yes vote moved the measure to the Senate.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 2082 (Roll Call #1160): 2008 Intelligence Report – December 13, 2007.

Voting 222-199, the House agreed to a conference report on a $48 billion fiscal 2008 budget for the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The bill required civilian as well as military interrogators to obey the Army Field Manual’s ban on torture, and the United States to adhere to Geneva Conventions rules for handling any individual in the custody of the intelligence community. A yes vote supported HR 2082.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

When the measure reached President Bush on February 29, 2008, he promptly vetoed it. The House failed, 225-188, to reach the two-thirds necessary for override. While Gerlach supported Bush’s veto and Schwartz and Dent did not vote, the remainder of area legislators voted for the override.

HR2642 (Roll Call #329): Iraq Troop Withdrawals amendment – May 15, 2008.

The House adopted, 227-196, an amendment to HR 2642 requiring the Bush Administration to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 30 days of enactment with a goal of completing the withdrawal of combat troops by December 2009. It also prohibited establishing a permanent base in Iraq. The measure also required the CIA to obey the Army Field Manual’s ban on the torture of prisoners, sets longer leaves between Iraq-Afghanistan combat deployments, and requires Iraqis to start paying a large share of U.S. military fuel costs and their country’s reconstruction costs. The bill is now before the Senate.

Gerlach (R-6th) did not vote
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 5658 (House Amdt. #1062, Roll Call #362): Interrogation Videotapes – May 22, 2008.

Democrats inserted an amendment in the $601.4 billion Fiscal 2009 Defense Authorization bill that required the Department of Defense to make and retain videotapes of its prisoner interrogations. Furthermore, the various military services were directed to develop guidelines on interrogation and present them to Congress. Although the amendment passed, 218-192, the final House bill had other features that the White House considered as veto targets.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

ENERGY

HR 6 (House Amendment #376, Roll Call #129): MTBE Liability exemption – April 21, 2005.

Section 1503 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave corporations that manufacture MTBE, a lead substitute in gasoline, liability immunity. The fuel additive is a known carcinogen to animals and has contaminated nearly 1900 water systems in 29 states because of surface spills, storm water run-off, chemical precipitation and leaking underground fuel tanks. Opponents of Section 1503 drafted an amendment to the Energy Policy Act that removed the MTBE liability waiver. A yes vote supported the amendment, which failed 213-219.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Fitzpatrick (R-8th) Yes
Sherwood (R-10th) No
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 5386 (Roll Call #167): Fiscal 2007 Interior-Environment Appropriations/Royalty relief – May 18, 2006.

The House banned new leases for Outer Continental drilling for any company exempted from paying royalties to the Treasury under existing leases. The bill passed 252-165 to end OCS royalty relief.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Fitzpatrick (R-8th) Yes
Sherwood (R-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 3221 (Roll Call # 827): New Direction for Energy Independence amendment – August 4, 2007.

The House amended HR 3221 to require electric utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their energy by 2020 from renewable sources such as the wind, sun, tides, crops and geo-thermal forces. After resolving differences with the Senate’s version, the bill was sent to the president who signed it in July. A yes vote supported the amendment which passed 220-190.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 2776: Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 – August 4, 2007.

The House on August 4, 2007 passed a bill increasing taxes on oil and gas companies by up to $16 billion over several years and using the proceeds to finance renewable-energy measures in HR 3221. A yes vote supported the bill, which passed the House 221-189.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 6: Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act – December 6, 2007.

After nearly a year of partisan finger pointing, the House advanced, 235-181, an energy bill to the Senate that would raise vehicle mileage requirements by 40 percent by 2020, the first mileage increase in 32 years. Among other provisions, it required utilities to produce between 11 and 15 percent of their energy by 2020 from renewable sources such as the wind, sun and crops. To pay for its efficiency programs, the bill added $21 billion in new taxes, including a $13.5 billion rollback of breaks granted in recent years to the oil and gas industry. The Senate eventually cleared the bill for Bush’s signature on December 19, 2007.

Gerlach (R-6th) Yes
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 5351 (Roll Call #84): Energy Tax changes – February 27, 2008.

The House voted 236-182 to send the Senate a bill to rescind tax breaks that ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips received in 2004 as an incentive to not export U.S. jobs. This would raise taxes by $13.6 billion over ten years and use the revenue to fund tax breaks that would promote the development of renewable fuels and energy efficiencies. A yes vote supported the measure.

Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

HR 6251 (Roll Call #469): Use it or Lose it – June 26, 2008.

The House passed legislation mandating oil companies to either drill on federal land they have leased or relinquish the right to do so. The “use it or lose it” bill was directed at dormant leases covering 68 million acres in the West and Alaska. The bill would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from granting any new federal leases to companies not drilling on acreage already leased. Unlike coal operators, oil companies are currently not required to diligently develop their leases. It has been estimated that if these firms would drill on land already loaned to them, it would cut imported oil by one-third and provide six times the supply of the Artic National Wildness Reserve. Although the provision was passed, 223-195, it failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote required for passage under an expedited procedure that bypassed regular House rules.
Gerlach (R-6th) No
Murphy (D-8th) Yes
Carney (D-10th) Yes
Kanjorski (D-11th) Yes
Schwartz (D-13th) Yes
Dent (R-15th) No
Holden (D-17th) Yes

Data: AFL-CIO, Congressional Quarterly, Morning Call, Washington Post.com, thomas.loc.gov

OSHA proposes changing rulemaking for job risk assessement

09.23.08

September 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA proposes changing rulemaking for job risk assessement

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, September 2nd- The United States Department of Labor (DOL) proposes to establish procedures to allow the public to see exactly what goes into risk assessments for health standards for regulating occupational exposure to toxins.

The DOL proposal will ensure that the best and latest available evidence and scientific data are used when conducting risk assessments in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

According to information provided by OSHA, the department currently does not have comprehensive regulations or formal internal guidance outlining consistent risk assessment procedures. The proposed regulation implements recommendations of a 1997 presidential/congressional commission that criticized the department for relying on “a case-by-case approach for performing risk assessment and risk characterization,” and recommended that the department explain its scientific and policy defaults with regard to risk assessment.

The agency believes the proposal will compile the DOL existing practices into a single, easy to reference public regulation and includes:

• Issuance of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in order to cast a wide net for available information from the public.

• Collection of the best available scientific data for the agency to consider, including industry-by-industry exposure data where available.

• Electronic posting of all documents related to a health standard rulemaking to promote greater public input, awareness and transparency of the information underlying the department’s health rulemakings.

The DOL stated the proposal gives the department’s scientists and technical experts the necessary latitude to exercise their professional discretion and to modify their assessments as science evolves, while ensuring that the department’s process is fully accountable and transparent to the public.

The ANPRM process is not new to the agency. OSHA has included an ANPRM in the last three health standards it promulgated, including two that were started more than 20 years ago. DOL said this important process ensures that those responsible for drafting the standards have the best available scientific information to produce a thorough and accurate risk assessment that effectively protests workers.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

According to OSHA, the agency’s role is to promote the safety and health of workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training; outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in work place safety and health.

OSHA’s area office is located in Wilkes-Barre and David Martin, Assistant Area Director can be contacted at: 570.826.6538, extension 18.

**************

OSHA issues third largest fine in the history of the agency

08.13.08

August 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA issues third largest fine in the history of the agency

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, July 28th- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on July 25th announced the agency issued citations proposing penalties totaling $8,777,500 against the Imperial Sugar Company and two affilliates alleging violations at their plants in Wentworth, Georgia and Gramercy, Louisiana. The fine is the third largest in history of the agency.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

According to the citation, obtained by the newspaper, OSHA initiated the inspections following an explosion and fire on February 7th, 2008, at the Port Wentworth refinery that claimed the lives of 13 employees and hospitalized 40 others. Three employees still remain hospitalized.

OSHA’s inspections of both facilities found that there were large accumulations of combustible sugar dust in workrooms, on electrical motors and on other equipment. The investigation also determined that officials at the company were aware of these conditions, but they took no action reasonably directed at deducing the obvious hazards.

“I am outraged that this company would show a complete disregard for its employees’ safety by knowingly placing them in an extremely dangerous work environment. What is even worse is that a month after the devasting catastrophe in Port Wentworth that claimed the lives of thirteen people, this company had done little to ensure abatement of the combustible dust hazards at its other plant. If OSHA investigators had not inspected and posted an imminent danger notice regarding areas at the second plant, the same thing could have happened again,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Edwin Foulke Jr.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed $5,062,000 in penalties for safety violations at the Port Wentworth refinery and $3,715,500 for safety violations found at the Gramercy refinery. The citations include 108 instances of willful violations related to the safeguards where combustible dust is present. OSHA also has issued ten citations for willful violations, 100 citations for serious violations and four citations for other-than-serious safety and health violations.

Under OSHA rules the company has fifteen business days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. OSHA’s Savannah, Georgia area office staff inspected the Port Wentworth site, while the agency’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana area office staff inspected the Gramercy, Louisiana.

According to the agency’s web-site, OSHA’s role is to promote the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. The local OSHA office is located on North Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre. Their phone number is 570.826.6538.