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AFL-CIO Now

Workplace, Public Safety Threatened by Republican Regulatory Bill

The bill establishes new roadblocks for mine and workplace safety, public health and other new  regulations.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would have been prevented from issuing timely guidelines on protecting health care workers and first responders from the Ebola virus and how to control the spread of the deadly virus to the public under a Republican bill the House is set to vote on this week.

The bill (H.R.185) would add dozens of new procedural and analytical roadblocks to any new enforceable rule such as workplace safety or consumer protection regulations and even to non-binding federal guidelines to protect workers and the public, such as the CDC’s Ebola guidelines issued last fall.

In a letter to the House, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director Bill Samuel wrote that the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) “will not improve the regulatory process: it will cripple it,” and will add years to the process.

The development of major workplace safety rules already takes six to 10 years, even for rules where there is broad agreement between employers and unions on the measures that are needed to improve protections. The RAA will further delay these rules and cost workers their lives.

Under current law such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Mine Safety and Health Act, agencies must adopt the rule that would be the most protective for workers. But under the Republican bill, federal agencies must adopt the least costly rule. Said Samuel:

It would make protecting workers and the public secondary to limiting costs and impacts on businesses and corporations.

Not only does the bill apply to any regulations from all federal agencies such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but also from independent agencies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Along with the regulations, the RAA adds new hoops agencies must jump through before issuing major guidance documents such as the CDC’s Ebola guidelines.

The bill is a top priority for business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, which plan to mount major lobbying campaigns for the legislation. A companion Senate bill is expected to be introduced soon. When similar legislation passed the House in the 112th Congress, the Obama administration said it would veto the bill. It has yet to issue a veto threat for H.R. 185.  

Last year, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario told a U.S. Senate committee that the years-long delays and burdensome requirements “[are] failing to protect workers and costing workers’ lives.” New roadblocks, such as the ones in H.R. 185, would, she said:

bring standard setting for worker safety to a grinding halt and make it impossible for OSHA to issue needed worker safety and health protections.

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