Tightening the Strings on CEOs Jeopardizing Work Safety

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(Photo: Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com)

No strings attached.

Con men love this simple phrasing. They use it all the time. They make an offer too good to be true, then assure their targeted victims that if they accept the offer and turn out not to like it, they can always walk away. No strings.

Corporate executives who vie for lucrative federal government contracts love “no strings,” too. In fact, they’ve taken the “no strings” mantra to an entire new level. They’ve weaponized the concept: First they cheat, then they invoke “no strings” as an excuse to keep cheating.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed legislation that turns this corporate two-step into the law of the land. Under the bill Trump inked Monday, corporate execs can violate federal worker-protection laws on wages, hours, and safety and still qualify for federal contracts.

Back in 2014, President Obama had moved to help make sure that cheating corporations could not qualify for federal contracts. He signed into law an executive order that requires companies bidding for contracts to disclose their previous labor and safety law violations and lets federal agencies bar violators from receiving future government work.

This “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” executive order would have gone into final effect this past October. But corporate lobby groups found a judge to put the order temporarily on ice. The bill Trump has just signed makes that ice concrete. No future President can resurrect Obama’s executive order unless Congress first gives a green light.

America’s CEOs now have what they wanted. Obama’s executive order on contracting no longer endangers their basic business model. They can continue “cutting corners.” They can double-down on squeezing workers and sidestepping the statutes meant to protect them.

Today’s CEOs have elevated this corner cutting into somewhat of a corporate art form. But their business model can only work if government plays along. That’s because private corporations depend heavily on public tax dollars. Private-sector firms with federal contracts, a recent report from Senator Elizabeth Warren details, employ over one in five U.S. workers and annually collect about $ 500 billion in taxpayer dollars.

Local and state governments shell out hundreds of billions more in contracts with private business concerns. All these billions give, at least in theory, the public sector enormous potential power over how enterprises in the private sector behave.

And that’s what worries corporate executives. Their enormous pay packages — and their incredibly comfortable lives — rest on their “freedom” to fatten their corporate bottom lines by whatever means necessary. They don’t want any government “strings” on that freedom.

Other folks, unfortunately, end up paying quite a heavy price to keep Corporate America “free.”

In 2015 and 2016, for instance, four Goodyear Tire employees died in accidents at the company’s factory in Danville, Virginia. In October 2016, Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health agency fined Goodyear over $ 1 million in penalties for both “willful” and “serious” safety violations.

Goodyear last year sported, despite these violations, $ 8.3 million in taxpayer-funded federal contracts.

Goodyear CEO Richard Kramer, meanwhile, personally pocketed paychecks worth $ 19.8 million in 2016, on top of the $ 73.5 million in compensation he collected the previous four years.

Now the prospect of losing $ 8.3 million a year in federal contracts might not be enough to make a big-time chief exec like Goodyear’s Kramer think twice about jeopardizing worker safety. But what if we tightened the strings? What if we went after the executive pay windfalls that give today’s CEOs an almost irresistible incentive to cut corners and cheat?

That string tightening has, in fact, already begun. Cities and states across the United States are moving to leverage the power of the public purse against excessive executive pay. From Rhode Island to California, elected officials are considering statutes that make getting government contracts and tax breaks harder for firms that pay their top execs far more than what they pay their workers.

These new strings make sense. They would also, if we gave them the chance, make our nation a whole lot more equal.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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US Mine Safety and Health Administration announces results of special impact inspections at 17 mines in January

US Mine Safety and Health Administration announces results of special impact inspections at 17 mines in January

Who: U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration

What: The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced today that federal inspectors issued 138 citations, four orders and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at 11 coal mines and six metal and nonmetal mines in January

Where: MSHA conducted special impact inspections at mines in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Background: Monthly impact inspections began in force in April 2010 at mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. Since then, MSHA inspectors have conducted 1,098 impact inspections and issued 15,833 citations, 1,303 orders and 58 safeguards.

# # #

Editor’s Note: MSHA’s Monthly Impact Inspection List for January 2016 is available here.

Release Date: 
02/25/2016
Media Contact Name: 

Amy Louviere

Phone Number: 
Release Number: 
16-0412-NAT
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National Safety Stand-Down highlights importance of preventing falls, leading cause of worker death, serious injury in the construction industry

National Safety Stand-Down highlights importance of preventing falls, leading cause of worker death, serious injury in the construction industry
OSHA, other federal agencies announce weeklong initiative, May 2-6, 2016

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal safety agencies announced today that they have designated May 2-6, 2016, for the third annual National Safety Stand-Down. The event is a nationwide effort to remind and educate employers and workers in the construction industry of the serious dangers of falls – the cause of the highest number of industry deaths in the construction industry.

OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Center for Construction Research and Training are leading the effort to encourage employers to pause during their workday for topic discussions, demonstrations, and training on how to recognize hazards and prevent falls.  

“Falls still kill far too many construction workers,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “While we regularly work with employers, industry groups and worker organizations on preventing falls and saving lives, the National Safety Stand-Down encourages all employers – from small businesses to large companies operating at many job sites – to be part of our effort to ensure every worker makes it to the end of their shift safely.”

More than four million workers participated in the National Safety Stand-Downs in 2014 and 2015, and OSHA expects thousands of employers across the nation to join the 2016 event. To guide their efforts, OSHA has developed the official National Safety Stand-Down web site with information on conducting a successful stand-down. After their events, employers are encouraged to provide feedback and will receive a personalized certificate of participation.

“In many workplaces, falls are a real and persistent hazard. Given the nature of the work, the construction industry sees the highest frequency of fall-related deaths and serious, sometimes debilitating injuries,” said Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH. “Since the effort began in 2014, the National Safety Stand-Down serves as an important opportunity for both employers and workers to stop and take time in the workday to identify existing fall hazards, and then offer demonstrations and training to emphasize how to stay safe on the job.”

The National Safety Stand-Down in 2016 is part of OSHA’s ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign. Begun in 2012, the campaign was developed in partnership with the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda program. It provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to take steps to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for their workers, and train all employees in the proper use of that equipment. OSHA has also produced a brief video with more information about the 2016 Stand-Down in English and Spanish.

For more information on the success of last year’s Stand-Down, see the final data report. To learn how to partner with OSHA in this Stand-Down, visit http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/. The page provides details on how to conduct a stand-down; receive a certificate of participation; and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. To learn more about preventing falls in construction visit http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/.

Release Date: 
02/16/2016
Media Contact Name: 

Brian Hawthorne

Phone Number: 
Media Contact Name: 

Amanda McClure

Phone Number: 
Release Number: 
16-0316-NAT
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|||||||http://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/20160216

Safety Is a Cornerstone of Ingredient Sustainability – Food Safety Magazine


Food Safety Magazine
Safety Is a Cornerstone of Ingredient Sustainability
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In many cases, implementing and executing assessment programs that verify environmental, health, safety, labor and other aspects of business can improve sustainability and safety. Reevaluating, auditing and upgrading existing operations, like switching …

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DOL, Dollar Tree reach settlement agreement to implement enhanced safety measures nationwide

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Dollar Tree Stores Inc. have reached an agreement that settles all safety and health citations issued against the company. |||||||http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/osha/OSHA20152372.htm

Death of three Canadian girls prompts farm safety debate – BBC News


BBC News
Death of three Canadian girls prompts farm safety debate
BBC News
After the death of three girls on a Canadian farm, a debate has begun about the role of children in farming – and the laws that make it possible for them to work without regulation. On 13 October, Catie Bott, 13, and her twin sisters Dara and Jana Bott

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Death of three Canadian girls prompts farm safety debate – BBC News


BBC News
Death of three Canadian girls prompts farm safety debate
BBC News
After the death of three girls on a Canadian farm, a debate has begun about the role of children in farming – and the laws that make it possible for them to work without regulation. On 13 October, Catie Bott, 13, and her twin sisters Dara … Have you

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EPA tightens pesticide safety rules for farm workers – Agri-Pulse


eNews Park Forest
EPA tightens pesticide safety rules for farm workers
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EPA tightens pesticide safety rules for farm workers – Agri-Pulse


Visalia Times-Delta
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Avoid a sad story: Focus on safety – Iowa Farmer Today

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HE MADE the risky decision to cross a muddy dam to hay cattle. He had other options, but chose to cross this narrow dam in April of 1993 … My sister and I had lost our father. My mother was left without her soul mate. My child, who we are expecting

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