AFL-CIO fears Labor Department will change Obama worker protection

AFL-CIO fears Labor Department will change Obama worker protection

AFL-CIO, a leading labor group, fears the Trump administration is planning to roll back a hard-fought worker protection finalized under President Obama. 

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed a review last week of a proposed rule that the Labor Department submitted on the occupational exposure to beryllium.
 
In January, just days before President Trump was sworn into office, the Obama administration issued a final rule reducing the permissible exposure limits of the toxic material from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period.
 
The Labor Department then pushed the effective date of the rule back to May 20 under Trump to give the administration time to review and consider the new standard. OIRA’s review could signal that the administration is planning to roll back or weaken the rule.
 
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In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said working people will die if the Trump administration walks back the rule.
 
“It also will mark the first time in history for the government to roll back worker safety protections against a cancer-causing toxin,” he said. “The entire labor movement will work together to fight any proposal that takes away standards that keep us safe at work.”
 
Beryllium, a lightweight metal used in foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics, composites manufacturing and dental lab work, is coveted for being lighter and stronger than steel, but it can pose serious health risks when it’s crushed to dust and enters the air.
 
Industry groups have argued that the Labor Department included shipyard and construction workers in the final, but not the proposed, rule, leaving industry unable to comment.
 
When questioned about the details of its proposal, Labor said only that it is expecting it to be published in the Federal Register soon.
 
“Until then, we cannot discuss the matter,” Mandy Kraft, a Labor spokeswoman, said in an email to The Hill.