In Biden administration reversing Trump’s anti-worker provisions, there are lessons for India

Rules motivated by and in the interest of corporate lobbyists are being reversed by the Biden administration including one which deemed workers to be their own bosses as ‘independent contractors’

In Biden administration reversing Trump’s anti-worker provisions, there are lessons for India

Mark Gruenberg

With few exceptions, the federal Labor Department, other agencies, and even the GOP-dominated National Labor Relations Board seem to be rushing to reverse Trump-era anti-worker rules and edicts.

DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will send real inspectors to high-hazard workplaces—especially hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and meat and poultry processing plants—to ferret out and slam hard on violations of anti-coronavirus protections. No more phony inspections by phone, as happened under former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump.

The NLRB dropped the Trumpite General Counsel’s challenge to neutrality agreements during union organizing drives, in a case involving Unite Here and a Seattle hotel. DOL “has suspended enforcement” of Trump rules to curb or even end unions’ and shareholder activists’ use of proxy votes to force firms to disclose and—in the glare of publicity–change corporate anti-worker, anti-consumer politics and policies.

“Those rules were motivated by corporate lobbying in the previous administration,” says Brendon Rees, the AFL-CIO specialist in monitoring corporate and capital markets—a statement that could just as easily apply to all the Trump rules Biden’s officials are dumping.

Biden’s new Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, a past member of the School Administrators, reversed an edict from Trump’s anti-teacher, anti-student of color Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She made it virtually impossible for past students of shady for-profit “colleges” to have loans forgiven after their schools went broke. Many students stuck with five-and six-figure bills are women and students of color. DeVos forgave only 3% of the loans.

Cardona’s also taking a hard look at the private accreditation agency whose decisions okayed those colleges’ eligibility to take loan-dependent students in the first place. And even Trump’s NLRB majority dumped its prior proposed rule, which would have been written in stone like other federal rules, to ban private university research assistants and teaching assistants from unionizing and collective bargaining.

The actions, many following Biden’s executive orders, show he was prepared to hit the ground running once he entered the Oval Office. And though Biden is a veteran of the Senate, he isn’t waiting for lawmakers to move, either. He knows full well that Senate GOP filibusterers would hamstring a lot of his plans.

DOL led off by dumping two acts of Trump era that sharply curbed workers rights. One Trump scheme would write DOL’s “joint employer” rule into the stone of federal regulations. In plain English, Trump wanted to leave workers between a rock and a hard place, unsure of which of their bosses—a local McDonald’s or McDonald’s corporate headquarters, for example—was responsible for obeying or breaking labor law.

The other was Trump’s plan, again to be a federal rule, to make more workers “independent contractors,” by favoring bosses’ declarations that they were. Unlike “employees” under labor law, “independent contractors” can’t organize, and must pay for their and the company’s share of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. They can’t get jobless benefits or workers’ comp. They also aren’t covered by the minimum wage and overtime pay laws. They’re “independent, Trump said, because they’re their own bosses.

Except the workers really aren’t. In the real world of construction contractors, port truckers, adjunct professors, franchise restaurants, and the gig economy, real bosses control practically everything the worker does, from uniforms she wears to his hours behind the tractor-trailer’s wheel. Biden’s DOL, specifically its Wage and Hour Division, recognized that.

“The division’s mission is to protect and respect the rights of workers. Rescinding these rules would strengthen protections for workers, including the essential front-line workers who have done so much during these challenging times,” Principal Deputy Administrator Jessica Looman, its current top official, said in a statement.

“Misclassification of employees as independent contractors denies workers access to critical benefits and protections the law provides. Additionally, removing a standard for joint employment that may be unduly narrow would protect more workers’ wages and improve their well-being and economic security.”

Biden’s Mine Safety and Health Administration followed OSHA’s lead in planning more enforcement in the nation’s mines against worker exposure to the coronavirus. The United Mine Workers welcomes that, but wants strong bans on worker exposure to diseases through the air, like the virus, written into law. That’s what National Nurses United and other unions demand of OSHA, too.

MSHA needs to build on this guidance and quickly issue an enforceable standard that applies to all mines and miners, union members or not. The agency also needs to keep accurate statistics on the incidence of COVID-19 in America’s mines, so a clear picture of the disease in our workplaces can be seen and acted upon, Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said, using the official name for the virus. And Roberts makes a key point about Biden’s executive orders: “Regulatory standards issued by one administration can be reversed by another.”

That is why it is critical for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation, the COVID-19 Mine Workers Protection Act, which will cement standards for this and any future infectious disease epidemic that may arise into the law..The task for the Democrats is stupendous as the Republicans are trying to stop at every step the Biden agenda for workers welfare.The Biden administration has started well in keeping its promises to the workers before the elections but its full implementation will depend on the vigilance of both the Democrats in ensuring that all pro workers laws are passed.

(IPA Service)

Courtesy: People’s World

Views expressed are personal

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