Trump's actions make American workplaces more dangerous
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Every day, millions of Americans go to work, and while most come home to their families and loved ones, the terrible truth is that thousands do not.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4,800 workers in the U.S. lost their lives in the workplace in 2015. In addition, nearly three million workers suffered from injuries and illnesses at work last year. Women, older workers, temporary and foreign-born workers are particularly vulnerable.

The brutal reality is that roughly 13 workplace deaths and 8,220 workplace injuries occur every single day. While many of these deaths and injuries do not garner the media spotlight, they are devastating for the families impacted.

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While we may debate many issues in this country and our partisan divisions may be greater than ever, we must all agree that being safe and healthy at work should be a right, not a privilege. Whether you work in a nursing home, on a construction site, in a retail store or a food processing plant, no hard-working man or woman should have to worry about being killed or injured in the workplace.

 

For decades, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union has fought for workplace safety protections. In the past, some progress has been made. New rules enacted during the Obama administration to protect workers from deadly silica dust and beryllium, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and stronger anti-retaliation protections for workers who report job injuries have helped improve the workplace.

Truth be told, more must done now if we are going to make workplaces safer for all. Unfortunately, while the threat of workplace fatality and injury should be an issue that we all should work together to reduce, the Trump administration is choosing a path that will actually weaken worker safety regulations.

Last month, President Trump signed a bill that eliminated the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which required federal contractors to report and correct major safety and other labor violations. The Trump administration also plans to shrink federal funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which would only make certain occupations and workplaces even more dangerous.

In fact, OSHA is already delaying enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry and reversed an OSHA rule that clarified an employer’s responsibility to maintain accurate records of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. Even these specific changes will make it difficult for OSHA to compile injury and illness records that are critical to identifying what jobs are dangerous and which employers are failing to keep their workers safe.

While some will suggest that these are unnecessary regulations and a fiscal burden to businesses, the truth is that eliminating workplace safety measures is not only bad for workers, it’s also bad for businesses. Unsafe workplaces cost companies money.

Insurance claims increase with increasing worker injuries. Employee absenteeism rises in unsafe and unhealthy workplaces. In fact, workers took an average of eight days to recuperate from workplace illnesses and injuries in 2015. Unsafe workplaces result in higher worker turnover and low employee morale. In today’s social media driven world, the reputation and brand impact from an unsafe workplace or a needless injury or death is significant.

Now more than ever, workplace safety should be a core American value. It should be a value shared by unions and employers. It should be something that does not divide us along partisan or political lines.

In the wake of Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, every American should be willing to speak out in favor of keeping all our workers safe, whether they be union members or in management positions. Unfortunately, as we have seen in years past, there will be silence from too many employers, indifference from the media and, under this new administration, a disregard that this issue matters.

If the Trump administration is sincere about protecting American jobs, it may want to begin with holding irresponsible employers accountable, strengthening workplace laws and protecting the lives of American workers. Sadly, this will probably not be the case, and somewhere in America, someone will needlessly lose their life or be injured in the workplace.

 

Marc Perrone is the president of the 1.3-million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.