WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 15, 2011
Allow me to welcome my colleagues and our guests to our first hearing of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. This subcommittee oversees a number of federal policies and programs that reach into America’s workplaces. The decisions we make in this subcommittee touch upon the lives of countless workers, employers, and their families.
I look forward to working with my colleague Lynn Woolsey, the ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee. She has a deep passion for these issues and no one can question her commitment to worker safety. I know there will be times when we disagree but I pledge to put forward my best efforts to find common ground whenever possible. The cause of worker safety is best advanced when we work together.
That is why today’s hearing will examine the regulatory agenda at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Since 1970, OSHA has been charged with enforcing laws that govern worker safety and health by developing rules intended to keep workplaces free from recognized hazards. The regulatory agenda speaks to the administration’s priorities. Worker safety is a goal we all share, however, we have real concerns with the policies and process the administration has recently proposed to reach that goal.
Over the last two years, OSHA has not only attempted to implement several policy changes that would have profound impact on the workplace, it has become an administration more focused on punishment than prevention. All employers who jeopardize the safety of workers should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
However, punishment is just one piece of enforcing the law. Our goal should be to prevent workplace accidents before they happen, not simply shame an employer once a tragedy has occurred on the job site. That is why I am concerned with recent actions that suggest the administration has shifted the balance toward punishment and taken its sights of commonsense rules that promote prevention.
Worker safety is a priority, and so too is promoting policies that will allow businesses to grow and hire new workers. Needless rules and onerous regulations are often roadblocks to economic growth and job creation. The president has called on his administration to scour the books in search of policies that undermine private-sector job growth. This subcommittee looks forward to joining that effort in the weeks and months ahead.
I am particularly aware of the urgency of the task before us. My home state of Michigan has been hit hard by the recent recession. Currently, the unemployment rate in Michigan stands at 11.7 percent and even higher in some counties in the congressional district I represent. We all must be partners in an effort to get the American people back to work.
Our witnesses today will discuss the potential economic and worker safety impact of OSHA’s regulatory agenda. We have heard the mantra that “Good jobs are safe jobs.” I agree. But let us ensure that bad policy does not destroy the good jobs we need to create.
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