U.S. House proposing deep cuts to training funds, OSHA and worker rights

Posted by on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 @ 13:07 PM
 
The AFL-CIO and a top ally, Public Citizen (link is external), are protesting deep cuts to pro-worker services in a money bill now moving through the GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives.
Photo of safety signs

The AFL-CIO and a top ally, Public Citizen (link is external), are protesting deep cuts to pro-worker services in a money bill now moving through the GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives.

The measure, which allocates funds for the Labor, Education and Health and Human Services Departments and related agencies – including the National Labor Relations Board shortchanges programs vital to workers and ends important protections, say AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel and Keith Wrightson of Public Citizen in separate letters.

The legislation cuts employment and training funds, job services and job safety and health funding, they said. It kills health care quality evaluation and funding prevention programs under the Affordable Care Act, they add. It also cuts the National Labor Relations Board by 27 percent, Samuel said. That would “gut” the board, he added.

And the measure would yank NLRB jurisdiction over Native American tribes' casinos and other private enterprises, halt the agency’s new union election rules initiative and end its case covering whether franchise-granters, such as McDonald’s headquarters, are joint employers with local franchise holders, and thus jointly responsible for obeying labor law.
 
The GOP-run House Appropriations Committee, which actually helps disburse federal funds for the year starting Oct. 1, shoved workers’ objections aside and approved the money bill on Wednesday on a party-line vote.

The AFL-CIO opposes the bill’s restrictions, along with its money cuts. The restrictions include but are not limited to:

  1. Banning automatic representation for workers when OSHA  teams inspect plants. “The bill would bar workers from designating a representative to participate in OSHA inspections on their behalf ‘except in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and by a vote of the employees of the affected worksite,’” Samuel said. Workers now have the legal right to have an employee representative accompany the OSHA inspectors. “The language appears to require workers represented by a union to have a separate vote to designate an inspection walk-around representative,” Samuel said.
  2. A ban on the Labor Department’s current effort to write rules to force pension investment advisors, including advisors for 401(k)s, to avoid conflicts of interest.
  3. A ban on DOL’s new final rule ordering firms that import workers on H2-B visas to pay them wages in the same range as those of U.S.-based workers. The DOL rule also includes other worker protections, Samuel said.
  4. Banning the government from enforcing President Obama’s requirement for a $10.10 minimum hourly wage for all seasonal recreation workers employed by federal contractors. “This rider would deprive minimum wage and overtime protections to low-wage seasonal workers who need the additional income and protections provided by the regulations,” Samuel said. “The AFL-CIO opposes this rider and urges that it be deleted.”

Wrightson, who covers job safety and health for Public Citizen, cited many of the same provisions, but also went into detail about the money cuts. He called the overall bill “reckless.”

“The House majority is stacking this legislation with inappropriate policy riders and providing far less funding than necessary to appropriately support the agencies under its purview,” he said.

They include a $206 million cut to $11.7 billion in overall Labor Department money. Part of that is an $18 million cut, to $535 million, for OSHA, and a $4.9 million cut, to $371 million, for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Obama wanted more money than Congress allotted this year for DOL and the agencies.  

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