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Occupational Health News Roundup [The Pump Handle]

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 16:01
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At In These Times, Elizabeth Grossman writes about whether workplace safety will survive a Trump presidency, noting that “Trump’s transition team has said he will introduce a moratorium on new regulations and cancel executive orders and regulations ‘that kill jobs and bloat government.’” In interviewing labor, health and safety advocates, Grossman writes that a number of federal protections could land on the chopping block, including the new overtime rule, proposed beryllium rule and fall protections. Grossman writes:

How does Trump’s promise to reduce and eliminate regulations square with creating good, living-wage jobs? How will his presidency affect workplace health and safety? What will happen to the gains made during the Obama administration?

“Obviously the landscape has shifted dramatically and the position that we’re in and the challenges that we’re going to be facing are monumental. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” said Peg Seminario, safety and health director at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

She expects the Trump administration “will use the full range of its executive authority to reverse, weaken or appeal any of the major rules that have come out of the agencies.” That said, while an incoming administration can simply undo executive orders and indefinitely delay rules not yet in effect, existing rules and laws must be changed through the same processes that created them. Still, Seminario expects Congress will try to use the Congressional Review Act. This law, which has only been used once in 20 years, can be used to stop regulations the previous administration issued after May 30.

Read the full story here.

In other news:

Atlantic Monthly: Adrienne Green interviews Marie Billiel, who’s worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years, on the “emotional labor of waitressing.” Billiel was recently promoted to manager at a café in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and spoke with Green about the challenges of unpredictable income and dealing with sexual harassment on the job. On the issues of wages, Billiel told Green: “It is possible to make really good money as a server; I’ve done it. The issue is that it’s completely inconsistent. While you might have a great night and make $200, the next night you might make $30. It’s nearly impossible to plan for anything.” On sexual harassment, she said: “It’s not easy. I’m very fortunate that I now work at a place that takes it a lot more seriously than places I’ve worked in the past. I’m grateful that I’m in a position now where I have more power in the situations than I did as a waitress. At the diner I worked at in Amherst, it was just a barrage of comments, of unwanted touching, and I got shut in a walk-in cooler more than once.” The interview is part of a larger series of interviews with American workers.

Slate: Henry Grabar reports on the 500 hotel workers at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas who voted earlier this year to join the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, noting that the company that runs the hotel and is co-owned by the now president-elect has been blocking the workers’ will on every front. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that the hotel must recognize the union vote, and Trump has appealed that ruling in court. The conflict of interest seems brazenly clear, as Trump will soon have the power to appoint NLRB members. Grabar writes: “Trump will soon have the power to fill the two vacant spots on the five-person NLRB, shifting the board’s composition to a Republican majority. He will later have the opportunity to appoint the board’s general counsel, who decides what cases come before the board. Those officials would then be in the position to rule on future disputes between the union and management at his hotel.”

Huffington Post: Dave Jamieson reports that a federal judge has blocked President Obama’s overtime rule, which was set to go into effect next week and expected to benefit about 4 million workers. The groups that sued to stop the rule argued that federal labor officials reached beyond their authority. The court ruling delays the rule’s effect until the case makes it way through the courts. Jamieson writes that “it would be difficult politically for Trump to effectively revoke overtime rights from millions of workers, particularly after campaigning as a champion of the working class. But it would be easier for him to do so if the rule never goes into effect in the first place.”

Reveal: Shoshana Walter reports that in the wake of California’s vote to legalize recreational marijuana, one of the state’s largest labor unions — United Food and Commercial Workers — is pushing state officials to require health and safety training for marijuana workers. The push also comes in response to a Reveal investigation that found the secretive industry has a serious sexual harassment and assault problem. Walter notes that the union was the first to organize marijuana workers in California, with about 1,200 members who work at dispensaries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She writes: “The Division of Occupational Safety and Health does have the option of creating regulations specifically for the marijuana industry. To do so, they are required to collect public input – which the union was happy to provide.”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.

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