There is no possible justification for loosening safety rules just at the very moment they are most needed.
As “essential workers” labor under dangerous conditions through the coronavirus pandemic, they might be curious to learn that the terms of their employment are in technical violation of federal law. For half a century now, it’s been illegal for any U.S. business to expose its employees to “recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” But a law is only as good as the government’s willingness to enforce it, and the agency that supposedly enforces that one, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), doesn’t want to. At a congressional hearing Thursday, Democrats demanded to know why OSHA has yet to issue a single citation related to Covid-19—“not one!” exclaimed Rep. Alma Adams, chair of the House Workforce Protections subcommittee–during the two and a half months since the president declared the pandemic to be a national emergency. There’s no good answer—beyond, that is, the priorities of a Republican administration that’s resistant to the idea that workers possess any rights at all. OSHA refuses to establish enforceable rules for what businesses must do to protect workers from a virus that’s now killed more than 100,000 Americans. Congressional Democrats want OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard that would penalize employers who failed to comply, and a House-passed coronavirus bill now stalled in the Senate would require OSHA to do so. But Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, whose Cabinet department includes OSHA, has stated repeatedly that the tools already at OSHA’s disposal are sufficient. (Scalia is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and he shares his father’s dim view of government regulation.) The idea that OSHA’s existing apparatus is all that’s needed to punish employers who willfully expose their workers to Covid-19 is hard to square with OSHA’s record of never having done so, not even once.The Trump Administration Has Abandoned Worker Safety at the Worst Moment | The New Republic