Updated (below) 10/22/2010
Industry trade association are masters of using scare tactics and misinformation about environment, health and safety regulations to recruit and retain members. The latest evidence is the Chamber of Commerce’s “This Way to Jobs” propaganda campaign, with the worn out message: regulations on workers’ safety and environmental protection hurt the economy and businesses. A video cartoon promoting the campaign says: “
Washington isn’t good at everything but recently it’s been great at issuing regulations.”
The sites features a photo of a small businessman, Ronald Myers of Hot Shot Equipment, who suggests that workplace safety regulations forced him out of business. He’s seen standing behind a chain link fence, presumably his now shuttered small manufacturing shop.
The Chamber says:
“in the past two years we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration of regulations, rulemakings, and mandates.”
I don’t see it that way. The Obama Administration took office about 20 months. Since then, OSHA has only issue one, just ONE new regulation.
It was a safety rule for cranes and derricks published this July. The crane rule had been in the works since 2003, and was called for by manufacturers, suppliers and users of cranes because the previous OSHA standard dated back to 1971 and was seriously out of date with current construction practices. I’d hardly call one rule that applies to a specific type of construction equipment an avalanche of new OSHA regulations.
The Chamber of Commerce’s scare tactic language says
“OSHA is moving forward on an expansive safety and health program regulation that could require businesses to revamp their existing programs.”
A little fact-checking tells us that OSHA hasn’t actually proposed anything of the sort. OSHA’s assistant secretary has talked about proposing a rule that would requiring employers to find and fix hazards, a responsibility that already underlies the OSH Act. The agency invited the public to participate in stakeholder meetings held in June, July and August to discuss the concept of an injury and illness prevention program. But, no such regulation has been officially proposed yet by OSHA. In fact, the Dept of Labor’s most recent regulatory agenda doesn’t even have a target date for PROPOSING such a rule. It’s hard to imagine that informed business people would fall for the trade association’s rhetoric, especially with respect to OSHA which issues only a couple of major rules each decade.
Unbeknowst perhaps to the Chamber of Commerce, they actually make the case for the benefit of workplace safety regulations. The small businessman Ronald Myers featured on the site complained about OSHA requirements that machines be guarded. We know machine guarding is a common-sense equipment design so that workers don’t lose fingers, hands, or arms in moving machinery. Mr. Myers’ complains that such safety rules make it tough for him to compete with foreign suppliers, whose workers use their hands freely in the equipment, and don’t have the burden (in his view) or the benefit (my view) of machine guarding. The businessman acknowledges, however, that he and his crew have worked “more than 17,000 jobs without any workplace claims or complaints.” I take that to mean that his employees’ kept all their digits, thanks in part, to the guarding and other hazard precautions provided by Mr. Myers. No workers’ compensation claims or other costs related to injuries on the job means that the safety regulations have SAVED him money.
As for the foreigner suppliers who don’t provide a safe workplace for their employees—- and put Mr. Myers business at a competitive disadvantage—now that would be a worthwhile campaign for business trade associations. This problem stems from global economic policies that encourage the production and trade of cheap goods and products made by exploited workers. Despite what the Chamber of Commerce may claim, safety protections for U.S. workers are not the enemy, and they are not responsible for the downfall of the U.S. economy.
Updated 10/22/2010: Reporters Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire and Don Van Natta Jr. of the New York Times explain in “Top Corporations Aid US Chamber of Commerce Campaign” that nearly half of the trade association’s $140 million in donations came from just 45 donors. Contributors to the Chambers’ lobbying campaigns include Chevron, Goldman Sachs, Prudential Insurance and Dow Chemical. A Dow Chemical donation of $1.7 million was targeted at efforts to oppose tougher regulations for chemical plants.