Labor regulations faced strong Republican opposition
By Nia Prater
As congressional Republicans joined the Trump administration to fast-track the repeal of certain Obama era regulations, rules regulating labor and business were a particular target.
Using a law called the Congressional Review act that had only been used once since its enactment in 1996, Congress introduced and passed five repeal resolutions that tackled rules dealing with workers and business. The resolutions were eventually signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama introduced a resolution to repeal a rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that amended the organization’s regulations on record keeping. It put increased emphasis on employers keeping records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
“Republicans have consistently called on OSHA to improve its enforcement efforts and collaborate with employers to address gaps in safety. Unfortunately, the Obama administration consistently doubled down on failed, punitive policies that do more to tie small businesses in red tape than protect workers,” Byrne said in a statement.
“Republicans have consistently called on OSHA to improve its enforcement efforts and collaborate with employers to address gaps in safety. Unfortunately, the Obama administration consistently doubled down on failed, punitive policies that do more to tie small businesses in red tape than protect workers.—Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.)
'Gives license to employers'
“With this rule, OSHA rewrote federal law while doing nothing to improve worker health and safety.”
The AFL-CIO called on Congress to vote against the repeal, saying in a press release, “This resolution gives license to employers to hide injuries, falsify injury records and willfully violate the law without any accountability. This will undermine safety and health and put workers in danger.”
Another of the more controversial of these resolutions, proposed by Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, repealed a Department of Labor rule that laid for states which for occupations of applicants seeking unemployment compensation can be tested for drug use.
This testing would have occurred if suitable work for the applicant could only have been found in areas that require such testing or if the applicant was previously terminated due to “unlawful use of a controlled substance.”
Opened the flood gates?
Some felt that by listing the specific jobs where drug testing could have taken place, the original rule placed limits on the states and how they could have implement their own drug testing policies. But supporters of the rule said its repeal would have opened the flood gates of drug-testing citizens seeking public assistance.
“The reality is that people who receive public assistance are no more likely to use drugs than the general population. These drug testing programs have proven again and again to accomplish nothing and are a big waste of tax dollars,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, in a press release.
The CRA also was used to revoke rules pertaining to the retirement plans of non-governmental employees on the state level and payroll deductions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Congress to support the repeal, saying that these labor rules hurt workers.
'Less worker protections and safeguards'
“These [Department of Labor] regulations circumvent Congress’s authority and will undermine critical protections for the retirement savings of private sector workers by allowing states and municipalities to automatically enroll private sector employees in the state or municipal retirement plan but without any responsibilities under [Employee Retirement Income Security Act],” Jack Howard, the group’s senior vice president, wrote in a letter to senators.
“In essence, private sector employees in these plans will have less worker protections and safeguards than their counterparts covered by employer retirement plans.”
Congress also took aim at an Obama executive order signed in 2014. Known as the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” order, it called for federal contractors seeking contracts over $500,000 to comply with labor laws and report any workplace violations from three years prior.
The resolution, introduced by Rep Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, was signed into law in March.