Hard as it to believe, it appears that the Trump administration on Monday will actually do something right by workers.
It’s doing so after trying to save $11 million per year in construction and maritime costs to help one corner of a polluting industry that Trump calls beautiful: coal.
The price for those savings: two dead Americans a week, all of them blue-collar construction and maritime workers.
It appears from a Labor Department notice issued last week that even the political termites who Team Trump set loose to eat away at the substance of our government found the butcher’s bill for helping the “beautiful” coal industry was more than they could stomach.
The issue involves industrial uses of beryllium, a strong and light metal used in everything from missiles to nuclear bomb casings.
In metallic form, there is no danger, but beryllium dust is deadly. Most beryllium dust comes from coal slag, which is used as an abrasive in air guns to blast paint and rust off ship hulls so they can be repainted.
A Deadly Disease
There is no cure for those who develop Chronic Beryllium Disease. The number of deaths among the 62,000 or so blue-collar workers exposed to beryllium dust has fallen sharply since the 1970s when better breathing masks and respirators were introduced.
The cost of the Obama safety rules, about $11 million, means that the Trump administration’s proposal, which appears to now be on its way to the dustbin of history, valued each blue-collar worker’s life lost at just $110,000.
The dangers of beryllium dust have long been known. Rules to protect workers had been pending since 1945. You read that right – 1945.
Inaction of 11 Presidents
That means 11 American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, allowed this carnage. Only the Obama administration developed new rules and had them formally adopted just 11 days before his second term ended.
Soon after assuming office, Trump’s political termites at the Labor Department moved to undo the new safety rules.
Because we pay attention to how Trump is using our government to harm workers we covered the issue as a case study of how Team Trump policies kill workers and in stories by our Sarah Okeson here, here and here.
Today the Trump administration is putting forth a policy that it appears will retain the Obama era safeguards. And if that is indeed what happens it will mean that in the future more than 100 Americans a year will live because they did not succumb to beryllium dust illness.
We use the cautionary qualifier “it appears” because the official notices are far from complete. They also cover only construction, not maritime trades. However, it would be illogical to continue the Obama era rules for construction only.
We’ll keep you posted as the issue develops.
Republicans accused of stifling sexual misconduct claim against Brett Kavanaugh during confirmation
A new report reveals that Deborah Ramirez, a woman who claims Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while she was a student at Yale University, may have had evidence to corroborate her story — but that Republicans created a process which would stifle her account so that Kavanaugh could be confirmed.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that she was assaulted by Kavanaugh at a Yale party when she was an underclassman, had her legal team provide the F.B.I. with a list of at least 25 people who could have had evidence to corroborate her story, but the bureau ultimately interviewed none of them, according to The New York Times. The publication also learned that many of the individuals who could have corroborated Ramirez's story attempted to reach the F.B.I. on their own but were unable to do so.
Why is billionaire Tom Steyer running for president — as an enemy of big corporations?
Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has become a late arrival in the field of Democratic presidential candidates, provides anti-Trump voters with an interesting challenge. His critique of wealth sometimes sounds like Bernie Sanders, but he is by far the richest person in the race (even if you include Donald Trump).
This article first appeared in Salon.
When I interviewed Steyer earlier this year, he said he had no interest in running for president and was instead focused on funding a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump. He has obviously changed his mind — and while still far behind the leading candidates in the polls, has now qualified for the October Democratic debates, even though he wasn't on stage for the debate held in Houston last week.
GOP plan to cut Social Security to offset paid parental leave would weaken retirement security
Two recently introduced bills allowing workers to trade part of their future Social Security retirement benefits for parental leave benefits after the birth or adoption of a child would undercut Social Security’s benefits and structure, weakening the retirement security it offers workers. The United States needs paid leave, but it should not be financed by cutting Social Security benefits.
At some point in their lives, most workers in the United States will experience a major life event or emergency requiring them to take time off work, such as a serious illness, the birth of a child, or caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent. A national, comprehensive paid family leave policy that is responsibly financed would provide much-needed economic support to workers during these times and ensure equitable access to paid leave for low-income people and people of color, who often do not have significant paid leave from their employers.