Labor Takes Another Blow From GOP-led Congress

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney is calling Congress' action to overturn OSHA's ergonomics standard, "dishonest" and "disgraceful."

"''Dishonest'' and ''disgraceful'' are not strong enough words to describe the Senate vote against injured workers in Congress," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney commented in regards to last night''s Senate vote to repeal OSHA''s ergonomics standard.

Union officials believe organized labor is paying the price for its support of Democrats and former Vice President Al Gore in the November elections in the wake of the Senate''s vote.

"It''s a shameful portrayal of what this Congress is all about when I thought we were entering into a new era of bipartisanship," said Bill Borwegen, occupational health and safety director for the Service Employees International Union.

AFL-CIO''s Sweeney noted that is the first health and safety standard nullified in OSHA''s 30-year history.

"Senators hostile to the interests of working families rushed a naked political pay-off to big business contributors who have opposed every effort to enact a standard protecting workers," said Sweeney. "They tried to claim that it''s just this rule they oppose; it''s just the process this time to which they object. That''s rubbish. The same businesses that are swarming Capital Hill this week have turned their backs on workers'' safety, workers'' pay and workers'' family needs at every juncture."

Sweeney also expressed concern that the attack on the rules aimed at protecting workers was done with the full backing of the Bush Administration.

"Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao must answer for ducking and equivocating instead of standing up for 10 years of rulemaking by the Department of Labor," said Sweeney. "Chao appears to have become a willing partner in the systematic attempt by President Bush, who raised $250 million from corporations in his election campaign, to depress workers and weaken unions in America in order to further tilt the balance in this country in favor of corporate power."

The new ergonomics regulations, which had been the subject of a decade-long political fight, were enacted in the final days of the Clinton Administration.

They required businesses to make adjustments to work stations and to pay for some health care and medical leave if they determine an employee suffers from repetitive stress injuries caused by work.

Businesses were given until October to comply.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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