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Monday, October 29, 2018

Trump Labor Department announces its fall offensive against workers’ rights

Wages, safety, pension rules head for the meat grinder
By Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project

Related imageIn the Fall Regulatory Agenda released by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Trump administration continues its relentless march toward repealing safeguards designed to protect the rights of workers to receive the wages they are owed, to be safe on the job, and to have access to robust health care and retirement security.

For a president who promised in his inaugural speech that every decision he made would be to benefit our nation’s workers, the DOL’s Fall Regulatory Agenda is just another in a long string of broken promises to working people.


Proposals from the Wage and Hour Division continue to threaten the right of workers to earn a decent living from their labor.

First, WHD will press forward with weakening the overtime pay protections the Obama administration adopted, despite the number of employers who have successfully implemented the increases without adverse effects.

In addition, we are deeply concerned that the DOL rulemaking regarding what constitutes the ‘regular pay rate’ under the Fair Labor Standards Act will give outsized influence to corporate lobbyists who have long advocated loopholes allowing employers to pay workers less overtime than that to which they are entitled.

As more and more employers ‘outsource’ their workers to other employers, often with the aim of shedding their legal obligations to those workers, the DOL’s proposal to ‘modernize’ their interpretation of joint employment must be viewed with great skepticism.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration seems determined to weaken an Obama-era regulation requiring injury and illness reporting, and to repeal other important protections that safeguard workers’ health and lives on the job.

OSHA’s regulatory failures are coupled with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule that would increase job hazards and worker injuries in meatpacking plants, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule that would weaken and revoke protections for farmworkers and landscapers who handle the most toxic pesticides (for example, by lowering age restrictions to allow children to apply these pesticides).

These actions demonstrate a shocking disregard for the health and safety of our nation’s workers and an utter lack of commitment to safeguarding against easily preventable injuries and deaths.

NELP shares the DOL’s goal of job training for teens through apprenticeships, but we urge the agency abandon its proposal to make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds to work in ‘hazardous occupations.’ The DOL has a responsibility to safeguard the health and well-being of all workers, especially children.

The DOL also seems determined to remove provisions in Health Savings Accounts and Multi-Employer Retirement Accounts designed to ensure that workers receive the benefits they were promised.

It is truly sad to see DOL, the agency charged with promoting the welfare of the nation’s workers, proposing to remove provisions designed to protect workers. Meanwhile, DOL has deprioritized any efforts to protect retirement savers from harmful conflicts of interests.

NELP will continue to fight any and all attempts to weaken important safeguards that workers depend on to protect their lives and livelihoods on the job.

The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.