Republicans move to repeal ergonomics standard

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans, at the urging of big business, will move today to repeal as too costly the Clinton administration's regulation to curb repetitive stress injuries in the workplace, afflicting about 1 million U.S. employees.

The Senate was set to begin up to 10 hours of debate, with a vote expected on Wednesday.

The AFL-CIO, which supports the regulations, said OSHA's workplace ergonomics standard took more than 10 years to win and could prevent 1.6 million injuries a year.

A simple majority is needed to pass a "resolution of disapproval,'' and both parties said it appeared as if Republicans would muster it. The AFL-CIO calls this an "underhanded maneuver" that would not only rescind the standard, but manipulate the rules to stop OSHA from ever taking action on ergonomics again.

Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said, "I think the votes ... will be there'' to repeal the measure approved during former President Clinton's final days in office.

It is one of the most sweeping and costly rules ever imposed by the government on the workplace. The AFL-CIO estimates the ergonomics standard would reduce the costs associated with workplace injuries by more than $45 billion every year.

"Clinton did this as a gift to organized labor ... (but) it will not work,'' said assistant Senate Republican leader Don Nickles of Oklahoma, chief sponsor of the resolution of disapproval. ``We will win,'' said Nickles. ``This rule is fatally flawed, lengthy and complex and totally unworkable.'' BLE members will recall that Nickles was one of the four Senators who collaborated late last year to kill the Railroad Retirement and Survivors' Improvement Act of 2000, along with Lott, Phil Gramm and Pete Domenici.

Bill Samuel, the legislative director of AFL-CIO, called the effort to repeal the regulation "the first major assault on workers by this Congress and this president,'' George W. Bush.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a floor speech on Monday, "If Congress passes this resolution (of disapproval) it will have destroyed in 10 hours what it took the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10 painstaking years to create.''

"I have good news and bad news today,'' Kennedy said. "The bad news is that ergonomics injuries are painful and often debilitating .... The good news is that these injuries are readily preventable.''

"The worst news is that Congress ... will prevent OSHA from implementing this or any other rule that will protect workers,'' he added.

The AFL-CIO encourages the members of all affiliated unions to contact their Senators as soon as possible:
E-mail here: www.aflcio.org/e/01.htm

 

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March 6, 2001
bentley@ble.org

 

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers