Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

August 5th, 2011 7:05 AM

Will Workplace Safety Become a Casualty of the Debt Deal?

WASHINGTON D.C.—This week, Congress passed a debt-ceiling deal that is expected to reduce the deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The debt deal sets up a “supercommitee,” which will identify $1.5 trillion in additional cuts by Thanksgiving. Congress will then vote on the recommendations in an "up or down" vote—no amendments allowed.

The committee will be comprised of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers of Congress. It's unclear who is going to be on the committee, but Justin Feldman, health and safety advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, is sure who shouldn't get the nod: Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla), who was part of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" that tried to forge a compromise on the budget ceiling last month.

Coburn has signled out cutting the Occupational Health and Safety Agency’s budget as a key priorities of his. Back in July, Coburn published a deficit reduction plan called “Back in Black,” which called for $72.6 million in cuts to the federal agency, which is part of the Labor Department. The report calls for eliminating OSHA community workforce training programs, cutting back on worksite inspections by OSHA inspectors, and focusing resources on voluntary safety programs.

"We fear OSHA cuts may come out of the supercommittee. Sen. Coburn’s proposal would weaken OSHA and put workers’ lives in danger,” Feldman says. “The report bends facts to conform to an anti-regulatory bent.”

Feldman alleges that Coburn report misrepresents the nature of OSHA’s work. “Attempting to show evidence of inefficiency at the agency, the report incorrectly asserts that the number of OSHA inspections declined between 2008 and 2010, a time when the agency’s budget was growing. OSHA’s official statistics, however, show that the number of inspections actually increased by 6 percent during this period,” says Feldman.

Also, Feldman charges Coburn with falsely representing a Government Accountabiltiy Office report (PDF) as evidence that voluntary safety programs are effective. Feldman alleges the report actually states that such program “have never been properly evaluated.”

Senator Coburn’s office did not return requests for comment.

Currently, OSHA has a budget of only $558.6 million. Many public health and safety advocates say that that figure doesn't leave OSHA with the resources needed to adequately inspect work places. There are only 2,218 inspectors at both the federal and state level who inspect 7.3 million workplaces employing more than 135 million workers. (That's one inspector for every 57,984 workers.) At this rate, OSHA can inspect a workplace on average once every 129 years and state OSHA inspectors could inspect one every 67 years. For a country the size of the United States, health and safety experts say you need at least 12,000 inspectors, six times more inspectors than OSHA current has, in order to properly inspect America’s workplaces.

Coburn’s proposed $72.6 million in cuts to OSHA would cut the agency’s $558.6 million budget by nearly 15 percent—making the workplace safety inspection force even more inadequate, Feldman says.

“The cuts Tom Coburn proposes would be absolutely devastating to the agency,” he says.

Crossposted from the Working blog of In These Times

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles