On Labor Day, as the nation takes time to celebrate the achievements of American workers and the labor movement, we get a report that the Trump administration has rolled back worker safety protections, putting the lives of workers in coal mines, offshore oil rigs, meat processing plants, and other manufacturing jobs at risk.
That’s not to mention opening the door for possible new uses of asbestos and the ongoing assault on the environment in general at the EPA, which will lead to the deaths of thousands of people, especially in the hardest-hit areas like coal country.
In other words, Trump rang in Labor Day 2018 with a literal assault on workers. Oh, then he attacked the largest union leader, Richard Trumka, president of the United States’ largest federation of labor unions.
It was Trump vs. Trumka.
Trumka had called out Trump for doing a poor job for America’s workers on Fox News, citing “changes to the tax code that encourage companies to outsource jobs, the administration’s failure to produce an infrastructure program, and its overturning of regulations, including some protecting health and safety,” according to Reuters.
“Unfortunately, to date, the things that he’s done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers,” said Trumka.
Trump responded in a Tweet, claiming Trumka represented his union “poorly.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump made out like he was interested in protecting workers safety. Like most of what Trump said in the campaign, he was blowing toxic smoke from his unregulated smokestack of a mouth.
“‘We need regulations for safety and environment and things,’ President-elect Trump assured workers at an Indianapolis air-conditioner plant in December 2016.”
He then vapidly repeated the notion that he would protect workers in a speech a year later, as he patted himself on the back for removing or delaying 1,500 regulatory actions intended to protect workers.
Now, Trump apparently sees protecting worker’s safety as an inconvenient hindrance to boosting employment –at any cost to the health and well-being of the employee.
Trump appointed a former coal executive with a record of safety violations for Mine Safety and Health Administration chief, David Zatezalo. With that appointment, he could begin to roll back Obama-era protections.
Inspections to make sure miners were safe before they began working were relaxed by Zatezalo so that inspections could take place while miners were already working, or, already in harm’s way as the case may be.
Meanwhile, offshore oil rig regulations created by Obama after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe are under attack by the Trump Interior Department. They want to remove a rule that blowout preventers must be inspected by government-approved third parties and a rule that required frequent testing of equipment for “wear and tear.”
Why? That costs money, and to Republicans, the risk of another environmental catastrophe is worth any short-term gains.
Meanwhile, at the Agriculture Department, the Trump administration is weighing if work safety risks are enough cause for concern to prevent meat-packing plants from speeding up line speeds. Nevermind that workers in meat-packing plants are more likely to suffer repetitive motion injuries to shoulders, necks, backs, and wrists, as well as serious accidents.
“Poultry workers already face higher injury rates than manufacturing workers overall, worker advocates note. At a plant in Maryland in 2014, government researchers found that more than one-third of workers suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. Many more don’t report dangerous conditions due to fear of retaliation, according to the Government Accountability Office, making it hard for the government to accurately assess the scope of the problem.”
Officials also want to cut food safety inspection staff, which impacts every consumer, not just the workers at the plants.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the Trump-led Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to loosen regulations on large companies that require them to report the injuries and illnesses of their employees.
Like much of the rest of the administration, it appears Trump’s goal is to sabotage the actual mission of the agencies that were created to look out for workers and American citizen’s interests, not the interests of greedy corporations.
We wish we could say it’s a Happy Labor Day, America. We can all honor the day by pledging our support for labor union efforts and voting blue.
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Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube