AFL-CIO Responds to Chao's Testimony on Ergonomics

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao's testimony before a congressional committee offered\r\nlittle hope to those who suffer from repetitive stress injuries, according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao''s testimony before a congressional committee Thursday on the need for a new ergonomics standard offered little hope to those who suffer from crippling repetitive stress injuries, according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

"Workers afflicted with such injuries number about 5,000 a day," said Sweeney. "But Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, despite promises offered after Congress repealed a job safety standard earlier this year, put forth no plan to address these injuries. She presented neither a long term plan, an interim solution nor a time frame for action, confirming fears that this administration has no plans to deal with the most important job safety problem in America."

When asked by Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, when she was going to set a deadline for a new rule, Chao argued that she wanted time to build a "consensus approach" to the issue, and that rushing to meet an "artificial deadline" was precisely why OSHA''s last ergonomics rule was so controversial that Congress revoked it earlier this year.

Sweeney called Chao''s plea for patience "an insult to workers who have lost their health and livelihoods while waiting years for relief."

Specter told Chao to "go back to the drawing board" and come up with an estimate on how long it would take to do a new rule.

"America''s workers deserve better," said Sweeney. "Sens. Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin took the right firs step today in holding the Department of Labor accountable. Now the department has made clear that it cannot be looked to for leadership, Congress must take up the job."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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