Tom Perez was probably the most effective Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins. The Department of Labor was unusually integral to promoting a liberal agenda in Obama’s second term. The skies seemed the limit for what might be done. But then the fascist won. To say the least, the culture of the DOL is very depressed right now.
In fact, it could impede the department’s ability to carry out its investigatory duties. Right now—before the freeze has taken its toll—a couple thousand Labor Department investigators are charged with enforcing the laws on wages, pensions and workplace safety on behalf of more than 100 million workers. At the current level of staffing, Lu says, the frequency with which an OSHA investigator is likely to show up at your workplace is probably once every 100 years. “It compromises the safety of workers, compromises workers getting wages,” Lu says. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”
The future of workplace safety looms large in the Obama alums’ concerns. “When OSHA issues a regulation, there’s always controversy and employers who say, ‘we can’t do this.’ And then inevitably they look at the regulation and say, ‘we can do this,’” says Obama’s OSHA director David Michaels. “When OSHA was in process of rulemaking protecting workers in hospitals from blood-borne pathogens, dentists told us that they wouldn’t be able to practice dentistry if they had to wear gloves. How many dentists work without gloves now? Americans have forgotten that the reason there are glove containers in every doctor office is because OSHA requires it. We would never want to go back to that earlier period.”
FURTHERMORE, rumors are swirling about whether parts of the department might just be abolished altogether. A policy proposal from the Heritage Foundation, which has close ties to White House officials, calls for repealing the overtime and conflict-of-interest rules, rolling back Weil’s efforts to root out misclassification, cutting funding for workforce training programs, and completely abolishing the department’s Women’s Bureau, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “The [women’s] bureau was created to examine the challenges that uniquely faced women when they entered the workforce,” the report states. “Today, women make up half of the workforce. The challenges facing female employees are now the challenges facing the workforce as a whole.” (It fails to mention that gender pay and hiring gaps persist across nearly every sector of the economy).
The OFCCP is charged with enforcing racial discrimination laws for federal contractors and ensuring that they meet federal Affirmative Action standards. Under Obama, the agency expanded protections to LGBTQ workers, implemented federal contractor hiring goals for disabled workers, and updated gender discrimination rules. The basic principle of the agency is that federal taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate, says former Obama OFCCP director Patricia Shiu. “I am concerned about what approach the Trump administration will take to ensure that people across this country not only have jobs, but good jobs. Jobs that are inclusive and reach out to all stripes and colors,” Shiu says. The Heritage paper claims that because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces discrimination laws for all employers, the OFCCP is redundant.
In Congress, Republicans are working to repeal Obama’s Fair Pay, Safe Workplaces order that requires federal contractors to disclose past labor law violations, and labor advocates fear that additional orders that required federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour and provide paid sick leave could be on the chopping block, too. Despite reports detailing how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped save Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination from federal contractors, there’s no such reassurance for the minimum wage or paid sick leave orders The future of the overtime rule, which a federal judge blocked just days before it was supposed to go into effect, is also very much in question. It remains to be seen whether the administration defends the rule in the courts or hangs it out to dry.
But hey, Hillary was the candidate of Goldman Sachs and Trump wouldn’t do what he says he is going to do, right? And I’m sure that the building trades cuddling up to the fascist will totally pay off for them!