By Mike Lillis
The House Education and Labor Committee is meeting Tuesday afternoon to examine newly introduced legislation designed to bolster protections for the nation’s miners. But the most controversial provision of the proposal has nothing to do with mines.
Rather, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the panel, has used his mine-safety bill to push for a broad, jurisdictional expansion of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a branch of the Labor Department.
The provision has prompted Republicans on the committee to attack the bill for overreaching. And on Tuesday, a long list of business groups — uniting as the Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS) — filed their opposition as well. In a letter to members of the committee, the group argues that Congress shouldn’t saddle businesses with new workplace safety rules without also providing resources to help those businesses meet the new requirements.
“Instead of improving workplace safety,” the group wrote, “this bill will only increase the adversarial nature of the relationship between Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and employers, and create more confusion leading to increased litigation and compliance costs. This bill contains no support or assistance for employers to help them implement better safety programs or understand better their obligations.”
The CWS includes business groups as diverse as the International Foodservice Distributors Association and the Society of American Florists.
Miller’s mine safety bill arrives as a response to a West Virginia mine explosion, which killed 29 workers in April. Senate leaders, who are eying similar reforms, have yet to introduce their proposal.