US Republicans seek to silence whistleblowers

Republican lawmakers have indicated it is more important to let employers police themselves on workplace safety than it is to give workers protection when they blow the whistle on unsafe practices.

In comments to Daily Labor Report last week, Republican Representative John Kline said his party would reject President Obama’s proposed budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the official health and safety enforcement agency. He revealed Republicans are particularly opposed to the additional $4.9 million (£3.1m) for worker whistleblower protection and the $3.2 million (£2m) cut in the voluntary employer compliance program that was the hallmark of the Bush administration.

Kline said Democrats wanted “to increase whistleblower opportunities, increase penalties, increase the number of inspectors, increase the number of inspections and pull back from voluntary participation programs. We just have a fundamentally different view of what we think that relationship ought to be between the government and the workforce.”

In a blog posting, the national union federation AFL-CIO responded: “The last time we checked, more inspectors, more inspections, tougher penalties and worker protections were the hallmarks of any effective workplace safety program. There’s plenty of evidence that when given the opportunity, some employers don’t hesitate to cut corners or just downright ignore safety and health laws.”

An AFL-CIO Executive Council statement last week noted: “Some employers, such as Massey Energy and BP, cut corners and flagrantly violate the law, putting workers in serious danger and costing lives.”

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