Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) General Counsel Maurice Baskin on February 4 told the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that a February 21, 2013 letter of interpretation (LOI) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) should be withdrawn.
Baskin made the statement at a subcommittee hearing titled “OSHA’s Regulatory Agenda: Changing Long-Standing Policies Outside the Rulemaking Process,” where he represented ABC and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
According to ABC, the LOI allows union agents and community organizers to accompany OSHA safety inspectors into nonunion facilities.
Baskin told the subcommittee that the new rule is “potentially unlawful” and harmful to workers.
“The NAM and ABC believe OSHA’s new LOI constitutes a significant and potentially unlawful change in agency policy that does nothing to promote workplace safety and has a substantial negative impact on the rights of employers and their employees,” Baskin said.
“This is bad policy for several reasons. First, it undermines the rule of law, which is improper for any government agency charged with enforcing the law,” Baskin continued. “Second, by allowing outside union agents and community organizers access to nonunion employers’ private property, OSHA is injecting itself into labor management disputes and casting doubt on its status as a neutral enforcer of the law.”
Baskin also noted that the new law does not promote safety.
“By allowing a non-majority community organization to participate in a walk-around, the new LOI could distract the OSHA inspector from his primary purpose—workplace safety,” Baskin said. “Many community organizations, like the union organizers with whom they often collaborate, have their own biased agendas that are not focused on safety or health.”
Baskin told the subcommittee that the LOI contradicts the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the National Labor Relations Act, OSHA’s Field Operations Manual and the Field Inspection Reference Manual.
He also said OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to go through the required notice and comment procedure.
Baskin urged Congress to require OSHA to withdraw the LOI. He also called on OSHA to voluntarily withdraw it regardless of congressional action.