ABC General Counsel Maurice Baskin Feb. 4 testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Workforce Protections during a hearing titled, “OSHA’s Regulatory Agenda: Changing Long-Standing Policies Outside the Public Rulemaking Process.” On behalf of ABC and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Baskin addressed a Feb. 21, 2013, letter of interpretation (LOI) from OSHA allowing union agents and community organizers for the first time to accompany safety inspectors into nonunion facilities, as long as an unspecified (non-majority) number of employees in the nonunion work place designate one.
 
“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 in his testimony.

Baskin also noted that the LOI contradicts the plain language of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the National Labor Relations Act, along with OSHA’s Field Operations Manual and its predecessor the Field Inspection Reference Manual. In addition, Baskin noted that by failing to go through the required notice and comment procedure, OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. 

“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 said. “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.

“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 called on Congress to take appropriate action to require OSHA to withdraw the LOI and for OSHA to voluntarily withdraw it regardless of congressional action.