Good news for workers in 2010

Since few media outlets have a reporter assigned to the labor beat anymore, we've heard little this year about one of President Obama's best cabinet appointments: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

Tracy Kurowski wrote a good post at Blog for Iowa about the Department of Labor's annual Statement of Regulatory and Deregulatory Priorities, released three weeks ago (full report here). The gist is that Solis is getting her department "back to the business of looking out for labor rather than commerce." Here are some highlights, but you should go read Kurowski's whole post for more details and background:

   * Companies would be required to file financial disclosures on their union-busting activity. [...]

   * A rule change to allow third parties to report Wage and Hour violations. This is huge. As the DOL themselves put it, "because workers are fearful of losing their jobs in this economy and therefore less likely to file complaints when they are cheated," a third party which has sufficient information to indicate a probable violation may report the abuse. It's as easy as calling 866-4US-WAGE.

   * Companies would be required to document a separate ergonomic job injury log in their Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports. No more dismissing carpel-tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries.

   * [...]the Wage and Hour Division will hire 250 new investigators - not nearly enough, but a major departure from a decade of attrition and a fox-watching-the-henhouse regulatory culture. The division will focus on industries with high violation rates including agriculture, restaurants, janitorial, construction and car washes.

   * Advancing safety standards to protect workers from combustible dust - diacetyl, the artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn and the source of  the potentially deadly disease [bronchiolitis obliterans] [...].

   * Also better regulation of exposure to crystalline silica dust which causes debilitating respiratory disease which ultimately may be fatal.

   * Requiring pay stubs to break down how pay is computed to guard against wage theft.

   * [...]Now all government contractors are required to post notices of their workers' rights under federal labor laws -- a move that will better inform a fifth of the private sector workforce of their rights. [...]

   * Strengthening the restrictions of how much coal dust workers are allowed to inhale.

I've been critical of the corporate-friendly Obama administration, but at least the Department of Labor is taking steps to protect workers' rights. Now if only we could get Congress to move on the Employee Free Choice Act...

Tags: Department of Labor, Economy, EFCA, hilda solis, Labor, workers' rights (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

Re: Good news for workers in 2010

Unfortunately, I imagine Congress will wait until after the 2010 elections.  Not saying that's wrong or right, smart or dumb.  Just saying that is probably the way it will be and it is a shame for American workers to have to continue waiting.

by goodleh 2009-12-29 06:58AM | 0 recs
if it doesn't happen next year

it won't happen after 2010. We will lose 3 to 5 Senate seats, making it impossible to get 60 votes for anything resembling a labor bill through.

by desmoinesdem 2009-12-29 07:31AM | 0 recs
I'm a Labor Department lawyer and am proud...

...of the change in priorities in the Department between the previous administration and the current one.

I'm not at liberty to talk about my work in any way, but in any case none of the items in the diary are in my purview.  Suffice it to say that I'm thrilled we have Secretary Solis at the helm, and I and my immediate office colleagues have had a happily busy year helping America's workers.

And as a bonus for me personally, I had a fellow ISU alumnus in my office until he transferred to a different position very recently.  Cyclones gotta look out for each other!

by DCCyclone 2009-12-29 05:47PM | 0 recs

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