CHICAGO (June 27, 2017) — "On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies heard testimony from Labor Secretary Alex Acosta regarding the FY2018 budget request for the U.S. Department of Labor. Despite Secretary Acosta’s assurances that the Administration is committed to the Department’s mission to defend the welfare of working people, the details of the budget changes to DoL speak for themselves.
“These budget cuts, amounting to a 20% reduction to the department’s overall budget, would make working people less safe and prevent them from exercising their rights to recourse when they face abuse at work.
“The bulk of Mr. Acosta’s testimony, however, was focused on explaining how funds would be reallocated within the department, an elaborate shell game that had the effect of softening the outcome of what will be dangerous and devastating cuts.
“Included in these proposed cuts is the elimination of the Susan Harwood Grant Program, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that provides funding to train working people to identify and report unsafe conditions on the job.
“The Susan Harwood Grant Program has trained 2.1 million working people since the program’s inception in 1978 and significantly reduced serious and fatal accidents in that time. Still, every single day in the United States, thirteen people leave for work and never come home. Every year, 4,500 working people die at work.
“Yet Mr. Acosta’s only mention of OSHA in his testimony was to note that the budget will provide $4 million in ‘compliance assistance’ to help ensure employers are in line with health and safety rules. The assumption that employers will simply self-police their health and safety standards is flawed logic that ignores a century of struggle by working people to ensure they are safe at work.
“To adequately fulfill its mission, the Department of Labor must take a proactive approach to keeping working people safe. That means funding enforcement of our nation’s labor laws, not gentle nudges towards compliance of them. And it means keeping funding in place for programs like the Susan Harwood Grant Program.”