Rep. Daniel Norcross’ defends the safety of U.S. workers to no avail.
“Imagine climbing 150 feet above the water,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) declared from the House floor in February. He sought to defend the GOP’s assault on former President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces labor rule, but his callous colleagues in the House and Senate repealed it anyway.
Despite what the Republicans would have us believe, Obama’s Executive Order 13673 didn’t add any of the taxes, expenses, or red tape corporate paymasters love to whine about. All this executive order from Barack Obama did was require companies who apply for those fat federal contracts to disclose whether they’d been cited with any labor law violations. After all, it’s only fair that companies who get taxpayers’ dollars should show that they’re playing by the rules.
The controlled restraint with which Donald Norcross delivered his speech made it all the more heart-wrenching. You see, before he went into politics, he worked as an electrician and served as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO.
“Before entering public office, I was an electrician. I used to work on top of bridges doing very dangerous work. Imagine climbing 150 feet above water. But over the course of that career, three times there were gentlemen that I worked with who never went home, never clocked out, never went home to see their wife and their children.”
As it turns out, Donald Norcross’s three colleagues who died on the job are but a drop in the bucket. Yet Republicans are perfectly happy to reward companies that screw their workers.
“Every day 13 Americans are killed on the job. They never went home to see their wife, their children, or their husband. Sometimes accidents are unavoidable. But many, many times they are. And that’s what we’re talking about here. “
An average of 13 workers die on the job per day, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the GOP plans on gutting. 4,836 American workers died onsite in 2015 alone. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses took place in 2015, and those are just the ones employers bothered to report.
Donald Norcross went on to argue that this isn’t even about giving the business community a hard time, this is about the the kind of fiscal and personal accountability his GOP colleagues claim to be in favor of.
“The rule doesn’t talk about hurting companies. We’re talking about basic information. The same information that anybody in this room would ask if they were building an addition on their house. You’d want to know if you’re spending $10,000 of your dollars if that contractor had any violations. Did he finish the jobs? Were people killed on his jobs. But when we’re spending $81 billion dollars of the American taxpayers’, somehow, we don’t want to know that.”
Why would these Republicans — who seek to punish people who receive even the tiniest pittance of government assistance for the slightest infractions — not want to make business owners play by the rules like the rest of us have to? After all, when We the People apply for credit, college, home loans, and small business loans, they want to know every single thing about us.
“If you go for a loan, they want to know what your background is. Even if you’ve given it 10 times before. If you’re going to college, they’d certainly want to know the [applicant’s] background.”
Yet the GOP wants to our government to hire companies for huge, taxpayer-funded federal contracts without even making sure they obey labor laws that ensure that workers are kept safe and get paid for the work they do?
“So what we’re talking about is simple transparency. It’s not just about workplace safety. It’s about giving a free pass to something that they did wrong. Let me repeat that. Something the contractors did wrong. If they did nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear. So that’s why I stand in opposition to this rule.”
The scary thing is that Republicans no longer even seem to care about law and order the way they used to. Instead, they want one set of rules for us, and different rules for abusive corporations and the rich people who run them. And as much as so many of us liberals love Barack Obama, he is also partly to blame. CNN explains that by waiting until the final months of his administration to issue the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces labor rule, he gave our “unified Republican government” an easy way to repeal it.
Thanks to the Congressional Review Act, the GOP gets to put these “midnight regulations” under the chopping block, simply by passing a resolution of disapproval. This has only been done once, when the George W. Bush administration got a workplace ergonomics rule from Bill Clinton’s White House nullified. Alas, neither today’s Republicans nor the Trump administration have any such restraint.
WATCH: Rep. Donald Norcross’ defends the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces labor rule.
Featured image: Public Domain 1942 by Afred T. Palmer from the Library of Congress via Wikipedia.