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Trump’s foes worry that labor protections are in jeopardy

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Promising huge corporate tax cuts, President Donald Trump last month visited a Springfield, Mo., manufacturing company run by a family of Trump campaign donors.

Trump’s foes worry that labor protections are in jeopardy

By JENNIFER NORRIS BridgeTower Media

Promising huge corporate tax cuts, President Donald Trump last month visited a Springfield, Mo., manufacturing company run by a family of Trump campaign donors.

The speech about taxes was no surprise to most, but what did catch the eye of some was the manufacturing company itself, Loren Cook Co., which recently beat a lawsuit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after one of its workers was struck and killed by machining parts.

Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant chief of OSHA under President Barack Obama, took to his blog on the day of Trump’s speech to remind the public that Loren Cook Co., which manufactures fans and exhaust systems, had faced a $511,000 penalty after the 2009 death of one of its workers.

OSHA said the worker’s death was caused by seven alleged willful and three alleged serious violations by Loren Cook. A missing guard on the worker’s lathe had allowed a rotating metal object to break free from the machine, flying at 50 to 70 mph toward the operator’s head and killing him, Barab said.

Because of what Barab calls a bad court decision, Loren Cook got most of the case thrown out, after years of back and forth in the courts.

SOFTER RULE ON RECORDS

The president’s public support of Loren Cook is the most recent addition to the list of reasons worker advocates worry about labor protections under the new administration.

Just after inauguration, Trump used the Congressional Review Act to roll back several Obama-era regulations designed to protect workers, such as the OSHA rule requiring construction and manufacturing companies to keep at least a five-year record of injuries and illnesses.

“What that essentially means is OSHA is no longer able to enforce record-keeping accuracy,” Barab said.

“If you look at OSHA’s history, you’ll see that they have found massive record-keeping violations in the past and have been able to leverage that to create major change in the industry, but that will no longer be possible.”

POSTPONED ENFORCEMENT

Barab said the administration also seeks to weaken OSHA’s recently passed rules designed to protect workers from beryllium, a metal found in coal slag that can cause severe lung problems, including cancer.

Again, the administration came down on the side of businesses instead of workers, Barab said.

“The people who sell coal slag obviously had a problem with that [rule],” Barab said, “So they sued and raised a ruckus in Congress, and the Trump administration postponed enforcement and then rolled back some of the requirements.”

WELCOMED CHANGES

Over at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, staffers welcome Trump’s regulation rollbacks.

Without specifically mentioning the OSHA rule changes, Sean Hackbarth, a senior editor for the chamber’s blog, wrote a post applauding Trump and Congress for repealing so many regulations in the first six months.

“With two branches of our government in sync on needing to tame the regulatory state, we have an opportunity to significantly reform how federal regulations are made, and there’s a bill in Congress to do that,” Hackbarth wrote. “The Regulatory Accountability Act will ensure smarter, more effective regulations.”

Hackbarth ended by saying the RAA would be the “icing on the cake for a successful year of regulatory achievements.”

YEARS AWAY

Despite his many concerns, Barab noted the silver lining is that, even with more than three years left in his term, Trump likely will not be able to undo many of the worker protections.

“It takes OSHA about seven to 10 years to issue a new regulation,” he said. “And it’s not much easier to repeal a regulation than it is to pass a regulation.

“You still have to go through the whole regulatory process.”

BridgeTower Media is the parent company of Lehigh Valley Business.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@lvb.com

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