Regulations Protect Workers, Citizens

Abolishing regulations, as the Trump administration has promised to do, can cost citizens their lives, health and mobility.

Even before he took office, President Donald Trump pledged to reduce costs to corporations by cutting two rules for every new one. Too often, however, that results in injury to citizens.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America, for example, sued the administration yesterday over the Department of Transportation’s delay of a rule that would have required airlines to report damaged or lost wheelchairs as they already do with mishandled bags and late flights.

The veterans’ group said the information is crucial because “Having your only means of leaving the plane get lost or damaged is demoralizing.”

Just as important are regulations preventing unnecessary illness and death, and the administration has proposed revoking parts of a new rule limiting occupational exposure to deadly beryllium.

The administration’s intention to absolve shipyard and construction employers of the responsibility to measure beryllium levels and provide medical testing to workers at risk of fatal lung diseases would result each year in six additional workers developing Chronic Beryllium Disease and four of them dying.

The beryllium rule, proposed in the waning days of the Obama administration after decades of study, would reduce occupational exposure in industrial, shipyard and construction jobs. The administration wants to rescind the protections for workers in construction and shipyards.  About 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium, including approximately 11,500 in construction and shipyards.

Reducing the protection for those workers would save corporations approximately $11.9 million a year.

It would, however, cost workers their lives. Chronic Beryllium Disease, for which there is no cure, occurs when beryllium dust or fumes are inhaled.

“The lives of working people in construction sites and in shipyards are on the line,” said Economic Policy Institute Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz. “$11 million dollars sounds like a lot of money until you think about the lives of four human beings and the effects of those illnesses and premature deaths on the people who love them.”

In considering which regulations to eliminate, the profits of corporations should not trump the lives, health or mobility of citizens.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work