With Thousands of Complaints About Unsafe Working Conditions, Trump Labor Dept. Puts Workers at Risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In another glaring example of how Trump Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has been M.I.A. during the COVID-19 crisis, a new analysis from government watchdog Accountable.US finds OSHA workplace inspections have sharply declined since the coronavirus was declared a national emergency. While thousands of workers in essential positions have contracted COVID-19, OHSA citations have also fallen by nearly 70-percent during the crisis. Scalia’s abrogation of duty comes as thousands of workers have filed complaints to the agency about exposure to the pandemic.
KEY FINDINGS OF ACCOUNTABLE.US ANALYSIS:
- Only 1.22% Of Inspections Reported By OSHA Since The Beginning Of The Year—When WHO Began An “Emergency Footing” For Coronavirus—Have Been Associated With COVID-19 According To The Agency’s Public Data.
- Nationally, The OSHA Inspection Rate Has Fallen Dramatically From 217 A Day To 60 A Day Since Coronavirus Was Declared A National Emergency.
- OSHA Has Issued Only 4,621 Citations Since Coronavirus Was Declared A National Emergency, Falling 67% From A Comparable Period In 2019 And 68% From A Comparable Period In 2018.
“Donald Trump and Eugene Scalia have abandoned America’s workers in their time of need,” said Derek Martin, spokesman for Accountable.US. “When a worker in a meatpacking plant contracts COVID-19 and is forced to continue working in unsafe conditions, not only is that worker put at risk — so are the rest of us. It seems the more workers ask for the Trump administration’s help, the less it is willing to listen. If anything, the pandemic has steeled its resolve to protect corporate’ bottom lines at any cost, and, sadly, that includes cutting corners on workplace safety.”
Enforcing the laws that protect the health and safety of the nation’s workers, including compliance with OSHA regulations, is one of the U.S. Labor Secretary’s most critical responsibilities. But it is a responsibility Scalia has long disagreed with since his days as a high-powered corporate attorney that regularly espoused extreme anti-government views. In 2005, Scalia wrote: “The Government does not have the sole-or even primary-role in furthering occupational safety and health or compliance with the employment laws.”
Scalia has faced growing criticism in recent weeks for refusing to exercise his authority to better protect workers. For example, Scalia continues to dismiss urgent pleas from Members of Congress that he issue an emergency regulation allowing OSHA to enforce CDC guidance on keeping safe from infectious diseases. Instead, he’s doing essentially nothing in a win for the hospital lobby.
The analysis comes as the President ordered meat-processing plants to stay open this week despite a spike in worker deaths. OSHA has apparently only conducted 8 inspections across the major meat packing companies nationwide since the national emergency was declared. With all the headlines on problems in the industry, why haven’t meatpacking inspections been a priority for Secretary Scalia? The nation’s food supply is a critical resource, and so are the workers in those plants. What has the administration done to protect them besides issue non-enforceable guidance?