Citing the opportunities presented by a new administration and Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in decades, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) outlined its legislative agenda at a news conference yesterday in Washington, D.C.
The effort to kill OSHA''s ergonomics standard by having both houses of Congress pass a "joint resolution of disapproval" is at the top of NAM''s legislative wish list, according to Pat Cleary, NAM''s vice president for human resources policy.
He said the association is actually pursuing a dual-track anti-ergonomics strategy: a lawsuit launched by NAM and other employer groups is asking a federal appeals court to throw the standard out.
The drive to nullify the rule legislatively would entail employing a provision of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that has never been used before, and if passed by congress it would require the president''s signature. NAM must move quickly because under a complicated formula spelled out in the CRA, Congress must act by March or April.
Cleary said NAM has been in touch with the presidential transition team, but there has been no commitment as of yet by the president-elect to support the anti-ergonomics effort.
Cleary brushed aside suggestions that NAM''s chances of success were slim, given a narrowly divided Congress and a president-elect who won without a majority of popular votes.
"Ergonomics is a killer for us," he said. "We have no choice."
Cleary also noted few people last year believed both houses of Congress would have approved a rider to the Labor Department''s appropriation bill barring OSHA from going ahead with the ergonomics standard.
Despite the rider''s success in Congress, President Clinton refused to accept the measure and it was dropped from the final Labor appropriations bill.
In an interview after the press conference, Jenny Krese, NAM''s director of employment policy, said at this point she had not heard of a single company that is planning to qualify for the grandfather clause of the ergonomics standard. "And I get 10 to 20 calls and e-mails from member companies a day," she added.
Krese said companies were also not favorably impressed by a recent letter from OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress responding to Organization Resources Counselors'' (ORC) request for a delay in the grandfather clause requirements.
Frank White of ORC has called the letter "helpful" for business for several reasons, most immediately because it made clear that companies need not be in full compliance with the standard by Jan. 16 to qualify for the grandfather clause.
In an interview, White confirmed that a number of ORC companies are seeking to qualify for the grandfather clause, though he said he had no idea how many.
by James Nash