OSHA’s Mugno: Delayed Again

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

If the nomination of Scott Mugno to head OSHA was an airplane flight, the endless delays would have driven you to give up air travel by now.

As we last reported, Mugno had been re-re-nominated to the post of Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Mugno was originally nominated by Trump in October 2017, testified before Congress on December 5, 2017 and was approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee on December 13, 2017. But because his nomination didn’t come to a vote before the end of that year, the White House was forced to renominate him on January 16, 2018 and he was again approved by the HELP Committee shortly thereafter. But yet again, the full Senate did not vote on his nomination due issues not related to his qualifications, forcing him to be re-re-nominated on January 16, 2019. The HELP Committee was scheduled to re-re-approve him (along with a number of other Department of Labor nominees) in a mark-up scheduled for tomorrow, but that session was inexplicably postponed to a date yet-to-be-determined.

No word yet about why the mark-up was postponed. Just a scheduling issue? Time needed to go back and look at old yearbooks? Who knows?

It’s Bad All Over

But Mugno should not feel alone. The Washington Post reports today that even Republican Senators are growing concerned about the unprecedented number of vacancies still existing:  “The Partnership for Public Service, which has tracked nominations as far back as 30 years, estimates that only 54 percent of Trump’s civilian executive-branch nominations have been confirmed, compared with 77 percent under President Barack Obama at the same point in his administration.”

And the Labor Department is one of the worst: “Only 41 percent of the Interior and Justice departments’ Senate-confirmed posts are filled, and just 43 percent of such positions have been filled at the Labor Department.”

Who to blame for the delay? Some blame Democrats for delaying nominations. (Each nomination needs 30 hours of floor debate and the Dems have refused to allow them to be grouped into packages for a variety of reasons.) Some blame McConnell — not just for the delay-to-end-all-delays (Merrick Garland), but because he has chosen to spend valuable Senate floor time on confirming federal judges who will be around for 30 years, rather than Executive Branch officials who will just be around for a few years.

And some blame the White House which has failed to even nominate people for 150 out of 705 Senate-confirmed positions. And then, of course, there is the record number of resignations and firings which have left four cabinet posts with acting heads, along with the President’s Chief of Staff and OMB Director.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Loren Sweatt continues to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary (and Acting Assistant Secretary ) for OSHA, a post she has occupied since July 2017.

The Future

So as we move into the second half of Trump’s term, what are the prospects for the future?  In the last Congress, Dems were holding back on Labor Department nominations because of Republican refusal to confirm Democratic nominees to the NLRB and the EEOC. Neither of those people have been renominated, although the failure to nominate any Democratic choices to those seats may continue to hold up floor action on the DOL nominees. Meanwhile, McConnell could finally get fed up and go nuclear again, reducing (or eliminating) the number of hours of debate required to vote on a Presidential nominee.

Stay tuned.

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Reposted from Confined Space

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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Make Father's Day Union Made!

Make Father's Day Union Made!