GOP-Passed “Midnight Rules” Bill Could Eliminate Worker, Consumer Protections

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Standards to protect nursing home residents. Paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors. Democratic President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. Even standards that ailing responders to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks must meet to get federal aid.

All these rules, and more, could bite the dust if the Republican-run Senate follows through on – and incoming Republican President Donald Trump signs – GOP-passed legislation that cleared the GOP-run House on Jan. 4.

The measure, HR21,passed on a 238184 party-line vote, with only four Democrats voting for it. It’s named the “Midnight Rules” bill, but it’s really a lot more than that.

Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., say they’re aiming at rules the Democratic Obama administration implemented in the final few months between Nov. 8 and Jan. 20. But Issa wrote HR21 to cover rules stretching all the way back to last May.

A report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service says HR21 covers 220 rules. They include rules implementing Obama’s executive order, the paid sick leave measure, the nursing home protections and new rules for the renewed James Zadroga program, which provides medical care and other aid to sickened first responders to the 9-11 al-Qaeda attacks.

If HR21 reaches Trump’s desk, and he signs it, lawmakers still would have to approve legislation rolling back those rules. The GOP is chomping at the bit to do so. The Chamber of Commerce, the right-wing Freedom Works group and others all lobbied lawmakers for HR21.

One key rule that could fall came in September from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It improved service standards for nursing homes and banned them from forcing the elderly into arbitration to settle disputes over service and payment.

Another, the Obama executive order, told federal agencies to take companies’ job safety and health, labor law and wage payment -- or nonpayment -- records into account when awarding federal contracts. The Labor Department issued rules covering that on August 23.

Paid leave for workers at federal contractors, such as workers at McDonald’s restaurants on malls at military bases, also could fall victim to any subsequent GOP rules rollback bill. DOL unveiled the rule protecting those workers on Sept. 30.

And in the House debate, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., pointed out a job safety rule to eliminate worker exposure to beryllium, a cancer-causing substance, would also be in danger.

So would, he said, new Education Department standards for accountability of teachers in grades K-12 – a key issue for the nation’s teachers unions.  When Obama’s Education Department issued those new rules, congressional Republicans howled they conflicted with the intent of the new federal education aid law, which turns more power back to states.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work