Corporations officially unveiled loads of pet projects, wish-lists, and regulations they want axed at the Feb. 11 hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
They were responding to an invitation from the committee’s chair, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to let Congress know what needs to be done to make doing business in America “easier.”
Since December big business lobbyists have been parading through the halls of Congress demanding that lawmakers weaken or kill up to 200 federal regulations, including many pro-worker rules that have been enacted since the beginning of the Obama administration.
Lobbyists were expressing opposition to plans by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration prior to the agency’s official release of any plans.
Issa, who became a millionaire in the car alarm business, sent out mass mailings to big businesses back in December, inviting them to list rules they thought have a negative impact on job growth. Only corporations were on the receiving end of Issa’s letter-writing campaign.
A survey of the nation’s unions including many community organizations turned up none that said they had received letters from the GOP committee chairman asking for any suggestions.
The labor movement has expressed concern about the corporate arm-twisting of lawmakers on the issue of regulations.
“To the extent that pruning” of federal regulations “drives you away from health and safety rules, that’s a disappointment,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently.
In the responses to the invitation sent out by Issa was a charge by the Chamber of Commerce that “The Department of Labor (DOL) is working from organized labor’s wish list. The most recent regulatory agendas are packed with proposals, submitted by organized labor to the Obama administration, to reduce employers’ ability to respond to organizing campaigns, weaken financial disclosure requirements, and increase the use of enforcement over compliance assistance.”
Company lobbyists are also telling Issa’s committee they want to ban shareholder activism, which unions support. Activist shareholders have frequently put the spotlight on illegal employer activities and on excessive pay and “golden parachutes” for top executives.
Among the pro-worker rules the Chamber complained about are Department of Labor efforts to curb employer misclassification of workers as “independent contractors.” Misclassification lets companies get away with not paying Social Security, Medicare or even workers comp for their employees.
The Teamsters and Laborers unions have led campaigns against misclassification in the trucking industry, where the tactic is used heavily by employers.
Another item on the corporate wish list sent to Issa would eliminate the recent National Labor Relations Board proposal requiring companies to post permanent notices in workplaces telling workers they have the right to band together for self-protection by joining unions.
The National Association of Manufacturers, in a letter to Issa, also opposed several Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposals, including one that would require businesses to draft and implement on-the-job illness and injury prevention plans.
OSHA’s “Injury and Illness Prevention Program…would have sweeping ramifications on all aspects of both workplace safety enforcement and the promulgation of new regulations,” wrote NAM executive vice president Jay Timmons. “This new proposal may not take into account the efforts by employers who already have effective safety and health programs in place or how this new mandate would disrupt safety programs that have measurable successes.”
The NAM letter also bemoaned how OSHA is shifting away from “voluntary compliance” by business through “on-site consultation,” the approach pushed by the Bush administration, to more enforcement.
“Employers, particularly small businesses, should be able to consult with OSHA and receive its assistance to better understand and comply with existing workplace safety standards to enhance the safety of their workplaces without fear of citations and fines. Recently, OSHA proposed a rule that would subject small businesses to enforcement based on their voluntary participation in these programs. As a result, businesses will be more reticent to reach out to OSHA for help and less likely to participate,” Timmons claimed.
NAM also objected to OSHA’s plans to further regulate workplace noise.