Friends and colleagues continue to offer lovely memorials to Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who passed away on February 11.  (here, here)   Human Rights Watch noted in their tribute  he was an “unwavering advocate for fundamental rights,” and “his remarkable and sustained efforts on behalf of vulnerable and otherwise voiceless people.”  

Indeed, for Cong. Lantos, human rights was not only about the politically oppressed in far away places.  The vulnerable and voiceless included workers who were injured or otherwise harmed by hazards on the job, or those discriminated against for complaining about safety problems.

As chair of the former Subcommittee on Employment and Housing of the Government Operations Committee, Cong. Lantos made it his business to know what OSHA was doing about petrochemical plant explosions, repetitive motion disorders among postal workers, and under-reporting of injuries, among many other worker health and safety topics.  If he didn’t think OSHA was doing enough, he’d fire off a fierce letter or convene an oversight hearing and he expected answers.  

I was new on the job at OSHA in 1991, but it didn’t take me long before I knew that a Lantos letter or a Lantos hearing was a serious matter.  There was no doubt that the Congressman viewed workplace safety and health as a fundamental human right, and that it was OSHA’s duty to make sure that it was protected. 


  1. #1 Assa Fetyia
    February 16, 2008

    I had no idea he’d passed away. A Sad loss.

  2. #2 Jordan Barab
    February 18, 2008

    Tom Lantos also held a hearing in the late ’80s on the risk of blood-borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis B to health care workers, a hearing that was crucial to getting a reluctant OSHA to move on a bloodborne pathogens standard.

  3. #3 Celeste Monforton
    February 18, 2008

    Thanks for reminding us about this additional hearing. My post was sadly based on my own dusty memories. If I have the time, I’d love to put together a list of congressional hearings on OHS topics and OSHA oversight. It would remind us of accomplishments, promises unfilled and certainly the cast of congressional characters who’ve been involved (for good or bad) on OHS issues: Metzenbaum, Shays, Ballenger, Dingell, Gaydos, Ford, Henry, Wellstone, Norwood…..