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.
Trump appears to have fraudulently manipulated financial markets yet again
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
It was a busy week for the regime, as Trump and his team work tirelessly to manage the political fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems like he made time for some fraud.
In March, global oil prices crashed as a result of a dispute between Russia and the Saudis, dragging down stock markets and making it unprofitable to extract shale oil, which accounts for almost two-thirds of crude oil production in the U.S.
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
How a general strike might play out in the United States
The idea that pandemic-related economic insecurity might spur a general strike has been trending among pundits and the public in the past week. Such a labor action, which would imply a complete shutdown of all industries as all workers cease showing up to work, would be historically unprecedented, a prominent historian told Salon.
This article first appeared in Salon.