When FBI Director James Comey calls President Trump a liar, the world takes notice, but when Trump lies about workplace safety, the world takes little notice. Trump’s administration has recently provided significant “relaxation” in the government’s approach to occupational safety. The administration recently delayed action on a rule that would require the employer to electronically report workplace injuries so they can be posted for the public. OSHA has also put off enforcement of an Obama-era standard for silica, a mineral linked to a disabling lung disease and cancer. I’ve dealt with many silica exposure claims in Wisconsin particularly coming from the Kohler Corporation in Kohler, Wisconsin where silica is a necessary ingredient in many bathroom fixture manufacturing processes. The administration has also proposed changes in beryllium exposure limits. After 40 years of development a new rule under the Obama administration was set to lower workplace exposure to beryllium a mineral linked to a lung disease estimated to kill 100 people annually. The nation’s largest beryllium producer had agreed to back the new restrictions. A few weeks ago as the rule was going into effect the new administration proposed changes that many expect may exempt major industries from this tougher standard.
When asked about the Trump administration’s approach to workplace safety a White House spokesman said “The President and his administration care very much about worker safety…” Yet another lie. See also Under Trump, Worker Protections Are Viewed With New Skepticism
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney echoed the mantra of many conservative Republicans who suspect that folks who are Social Security Disability recipients are fraudulent. “If you are on disability insurance and you’re not supposed to be, you are not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.” This conservative trope reflects, without any evidence to substantiate it, the same kind of misinformation about employee fraud that pervades perceptions of workers’ compensation fraud.
As I have often written about in the past, the public’s perception of injured individuals (whether collecting workers’ compensation or Social Security Disability benefits) is vastly overinflated. The statistics indicate only about one-sixth of one percent of injured workers in Wisconsin are fraudulent. That’s about 2 in 10,000.
The Trump administration budget proposed up to $64 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance expenditures, directly contradicting Trump’s campaign promises not to cut Social Security. The cuts stem mostly from new program rules and processes, and requirements for mandatory participation by program applicants to move disabled beneficiaries from SSDI to work.
While returning to work is always a laudable goal (for both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability), the last eight times that budget proposals have initiated programs to promote return to work “none of the findings reported to date show they would likely lead to a substantial reduction in case load sizes.” http://www.researchondisability.org/docs/default-document-library/ssa-back-to-work-06-2012.pdf?sfvrsn=2
Through their contributions to Social Security, workers earn a measure of protection against disability retirement and death. (Disability insurance protects a worker against loss of earnings due to a significant work limiting impairment, and workers earn this protection by having worked and contributed to Social Security.) Many of my work-injured employees ultimately end up on Social Security Disability and this protection is particularly important to older Americans. Most people receiving Social Security Disability benefits are in their 50s or early 60s and most had only unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. Without a college degree, benefits are not significant (averaging about $1,200 per month). However, over half of Social Security beneficiaries rely on these benefits for 75% or more of their total income.
The proposed budget cuts to Social Security are another slap in the face to injured workers.
It didn’t take long for Trump to deceive injured workers. Despite campaign promises to help “middle class” workers, Trump signed legislation relaxing the reporting requirements for employers when workers get hurt or ill due to their jobs. Trump and the Republicans rolled back a rule issued by former President Barack Obama. By ending the rule, Trump and Republicans effectively shortened the amount of time employers in dangerous industries have to keep accurate records of worker injuries – from five years to just six months. The Republican-controlled Congress used a little-known legislative tool known as the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Obama regulation last month. Democrats were incensed. By signing the bill, Trump can legally prevent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from requiring a similar rule in the future.
Labor leaders and workplace safety experts warn that the rollback of the OSHA recordkeeping rule will allow unscrupulous companies to cheat on their injury data and conceal ongoing hazards from OSHA regulators. That concealment could make it harder for OSHA to identify recurring problems at certain employers and industries. Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA policy adviser and advisor to the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG), now with the National Employment Law Project, indicated “This will give license to employers to keep fraudulent records and to willfully violate the law with impunity.”
It was only a matter of time before Trump showed his disdain for injured workers and his true allegiance to business.