On the Confirmation Hearing for Labor Secretary Nominee Alexander Acosta, and Senate Move to Repeal OSHA Injury Reporting Rule

Following today’s Senate hearing on the nomination of Alexander Acosta to become the next Secretary of Labor, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, released this statement:

“Our nation’s workers and their families deserve nothing less than a Labor Secretary who genuinely cares about their welfare and is single-mindedly focused on upholding our essential values of equality, opportunity, and prosperity. The forced withdrawal of President Trump’s first Labor Secretary nominee is a clear indication that our country will not settle for a nominee who does not support policies that foster and promote the well-being of our workforce.

“Our nation’s workers deserve a close look into where Mr. Acosta stands on policies that improve their lives, like increasing the minimum wage, extending affordable health care, expanding eligibility for overtime pay, ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, fighting wage theft, and fighting the many forms of discrimination that continue to plague our nation’s workplaces.

“Unfortunately, after his hearing, we don’t have answers on far too many of these issues.  Though Mr. Acosta spoke of his prosecutorial background and commitment to enforcement of the laws DOL oversees, we heard few details about how he would go about enforcement.  He spoke about how unjust it is that the overtime regulation is so out of date, but made absolutely no commitment to defend the Obama administration regulation.  He failed to commit to defending a regulation that would prevent 600 deaths per year.

“These are but a few of the many questions Mr. Acosta left unanswered, all the while still maintaining that he will be a champion for workers. And workers need that champion more than ever before.  Today, the Senate will try to finish the job started by the House of Representatives and overrule an important regulation that would simply clarify OSHA’s authority to hold employers accountable for their longstanding obligation to maintain injury records that are accurate, a requirement that has been in effect since the Nixon Administration. This is a 45-year-old requirement that has never been a partisan issue.  Indeed, just this week, a Director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics under George W. Bush joined with a Director of the BLS under Barack Obama to urge the Senate to vote no on this resolution.

“The repeal of this clarifying regulation will make it impossible for OSHA to effectively enforce recordkeeping requirements and there is no question that underreporting of injuries, already a widespread problem, will get much worse in the most dangerous industries—putting workers in danger. The OSHA clarifying rule did not impose any new costs or obligations on employers, nor did it affect small businesses. The rule only covered larger employers in the most dangerous industries. This rule does not kill jobs; it prevents jobs from killing workers.

“What is perfectly clear from this vote is that Congressional Republicans, and the president who has indicated he will sign this measure, have failed to demonstrate any real commitment to improving the lives of this nations workers.

“And given Mr. Acosta’s hearing today, we cannot rest assured at all that the likely Labor Secretary will have their backs either.  Mr. Acosta will receive additional written questions from the Committee and we urge his answers to be as detailed as possible so that workers know what they can expect from the person who is supposed to be their chief advocate.”

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