Labor (September 2010)

Dems might use lame-duck period to force job killer

After spending the better part of a year focused on passing a trillion-dollar healthcare takeover, Washington liberals ignored good policy ideas to create jobs and even failed to pass a budget.

Byrd bill’s reforms will ensure worker safety

I traveled to Beckley, W.Va., in May to hear the personal stories of families and coal miners who described working conditions at the Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed in a massive explosion just a few weeks earlier.

Nation’s miner welfare is paramount and must be industry’s first priority

On April 27, soon after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, Jeffrey Harris, a former miner at the site, testified before the Senate committee that I chair. Mr. Harris described how the company lied to the employees about safety conditions in the mine, demanded the employees underreport injuries and instructed employees to interfere with federal mine inspectors who visited the site to review safety conditions. Mr. Harris explained that workers were desperate for a good-paying job, and they feared they would be singled out and fired if they complained. In the end, Mr. Harris quit his job because the safety conditions were intolerable. He knew what the country was about to learn: The mine at Upper Big Branch was a disaster waiting to happen, and in some of our nation’s mines, American workers were playing Russian roulette by going to work.

An investment in infrastructure will put us on road to economic recovery

During a recent trip to Nevada, I met a plumber who spent half of his life mastering his craft at a company from which he hoped to retire. Then, the recession hit — hard. Despite having a job that people of my father’s generation thought was recession-proof, he found himself unemployed. He didn’t want to tell me his problems. Instead, he told me how he was leveraging opportunity, specifically a training program made available by my department, into a new career. Although it had been years since he was in a classroom, he learned a new skill. Today, he is a solar-panel installer. And he is doing well.