President Donald Trump’s administration continues taking the side of business over the workers whom he vowed repeatedly during his campaign to place at the top of his agenda. The latest assault is an effort to hide facts about the number of workers killed on the job.
It’s as if, by making it harder to learn the truth, the corporate-backer-in-chief can make the problem disappear. It won’t work.
As reported by the Capitol Hill newspaper, Politico, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which administers federal workplace safety laws, last week removed details of worker deaths from near the top of its home page.
Details such as the date, name and cause of death are now buried deeper in OSHA’s website, making it much harder for people to learn the truth. And if they do find that information, they will find it’s missing a crucial piece of data – OSHA is refusing to list cases where a worker died but the company was not cited for a violation. That reduces the reported number of worker fatalities by about 20 percent compared to what the Obama administration disclosed.
A Labor Department spokeswoman gave a flimsy explanation to Politico: That “the change is aimed at making public data more accurate” and to protect “the privacy of the victims’ surviving family members and loved ones.”
And elephants have wings.
A more likely reason, as Fortune noted in a report also examining the issue, is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – which represents big business – opposed posting the death notices “claiming it unfairly smeared employers.”
Each year, more than 4,500 U.S. workers die on the job, according to government figures – and those deaths are most likely underreported, according to the AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job report. A full accounting – up front and in detail – of worker fatalities protects workers’ safety because it forces employers to be fully accountable and, hopefully, motivated to make changes to minimize, if not eliminate, such tragedies.
This is just one in a series of efforts by the Trump administration and his congressional allies to undermine worker safety. Each April 28, we recognize Workers’ Memorial Day to honor those who’ve died on the job and renew our commitment to fight for safe workplaces.
Will the Trump administration also honor those workers by listing their deaths where we all can see them? Or will it continue to hide them so corporations can go about their business as if everything is OK? We think it’s the latter.