Tuesday, December 16, 2014

OSHA is toothless. But business still hates it.

source: Daily Kos
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Michael Bloomberg’s Business Week has a little snippet in its December 8th anniversary issue about the merits of the Occupational Health and Safety act that was past in 1970.
But business groups have waged a 40-year war on OSHA despite it being a relatively mild workplace safety regulation.   The presence of unions in the workplace, especially a strong rank and file shop steward movement is the best safeguard against injury and unhealthy conditions.

BW points out that since OSHA’s passing, the US workplace death rate has declined by 81%.  Still, according to David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz Huff Post political bloggers, as of 2011 more than 3 million workers a year suffer some form of work related illness. It is almost impossible to say how many actually die of work related illnesses. The authors add “….workplace accidents fell from 13,800 in 1970 to 5,657 in 2007.”

Workplace deaths still average 13 a day with the construction industry at the top of the list but as BW points out, deaths from work related illnesses like lung cancer could be 10 times as high.

Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Business Week is worth $34 billion according to Forbes, it’s not likely he’s a big fan of OSHA.  The US Chamber of Commerce opposed OSHA as it has most agencies that protect worker’s rights, even feebly.  The US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Round Table and other big business gangs consider unions and all worker organizations, as well as government regulation as attacks on their freedom, freedom to make profits that is. 

The Chamber of Commerce introduced a $100 million campaign to “defend and advance economic freedom.” largely in response to the Obama Administration’s efforts to launch a consumer protection agency. The Chamber’s ally in that little venture was the banking lobby. This has been the history of Business Associations of one type or another.  They are by far the most ruthless of all of society’s gangs, the Crips, Bloods, Norteños have nothing on them…..and they’re legal which helps.

If we read labor history we will find that every advance working people and all oppressed people made was blocked by the likes of Bloomberg and the legal gangs that represent the interests of big business. Every right, every benefit every freedom we have we fought for against one of the most ruthless ruling classes in history. They opposed the eight-hour day movement, said it would destroy society.  Read the papers of that period.  “A few years after the law was passed…” Rosner and Markowitz write, “ ….a Chamber of Commerce pamphlet declared ‘This is the sorry history of OSHA - a statute which serves little useful purpose; and in its administration is even threatening the entire business system.’”

Bloomberg is not likely to be in the forefront of a movement to defend OSHA, that it exists at all is in spite of people like Bloomberg and magazines like Business Week. The agency has come under attack more and more of late and only has 2, 218 inspectors nationwide. This is a joke when we consider the number of workplaces and OSHA generally doesn’t appear on the scene until workers die. Workers can’t rely on OSHA or the US Congress to protect our workplace safety; the US Congress has blocked any efforts to increase OSHA’s effectiveness.

It should be mentioned that one of the reasons for a decline in workplace deaths other than unions and OSHA is the reduction of blue-collar factory jobs and the de-industrialization of America.  Needless to say, true workplace safety will begin when those that do the work control the labor process and the workplace with it.

Industries With the Most Fatalities 2013

·      Construction: 796
·      Transportation/Warehousing 687
·      Agriculture Forestry Fishing and Hunting 479
·      Professional and Business Services 408
·      Manufacturing 304

Source: Business Week.

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