Vote as Though Our Lives Depended On It!
With Election Day just moments away, it seemed important (no, critical) to write about the marked difference between this year’s election and that of 2008. With the last Presidential election we went “all-in” for a particular candidate, and we won. We will win now, too, but only if we vote with the issues in mind that matter most to us as working people. One item that seems to get rolled under the carpet is the fact that if we lose the current administration, we wll also lose its cabinet.
If you don’t recall, I urge you to do some searching online to read about (or be reminded of) former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Her Department of Labor was vastly different than the one we work with today under Secretary Hilda Solis -- and that’s a massive understatement. One favorite memory of Chao was when she blamed “large numbers of students and graduates entering into the workforce” as the reason unemployment rates were high in May 2008. The other bizarre Chao memory was from 2007 when she said U.S. employers are enticed to do business overseas becuase of the cheap cost of labor, but also because workers here stink. Well, the actual quote was “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene."
I beg you to help me not see another Chao Secretary of Labor.
The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the most union-friendly since its inception. All of the top-ranking officers of both OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) either worked for or have very strong ties to the labor movement.
There haven’t been any Republican presidents in recent memory who have appointed a labor-friendly Secretary of Labor. Another secretary like Chao will change the game for the entire Department of Labor, and most notably, OSHA and NIOSH.
The campaign trail has been lit up with all the things the Republican candidate wants to see slashed. At the end of the day, there will be dramatic cuts to OSHA and NIOSH’s budget, and enforcement will potentially take on that familiar look of paralysis so many of us remember as being a hallmark of the last administration.
Budget and enforcement are a big deal that ought not be taken lightly. Earlier this year, someone said that this election was not about party lines, it was about workers’ issues – and OSHA’s budget and enforcement ability came to mind. Any federal OSHA budget cut will surely affect the state and regional offices – if those even survive. We cannot afford that to happen when we are dealing with an average of one member getting seriously injured on the job each day of the week.
The forward movement we are making with workplace violence prevention legislation, infectious disease controls, safe patient handling, and other critical issues we take on at my union, should not be tabled if a less-than-friendly Secretary of Labor is put in place who will oversee OSHA’s virtual dismantling.
We frequently say to one another to work safe and work smart. To take that another step, I'd like to propose that we Vote as our lives depended on it!
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