In a move that surprised even long-time advisors and left Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speechless, President Barack Obama, in a keynote address to the American Petroleum Institute, said he was “open to the idea” of privatizing OSHA.
Although the president was short on details, he noted the federal budget for FY 2015 sets aside $565 million for OSHA, which, according to the budget documents allows “OSHA to inspect hazardous workplaces and work with employers to help them understand and comply with safety and health regulations.”
“Wouldn’t it be great to take some of that $565 million and plow it back into other initiatives of the U.S. Department of Labor, like making targeted investments to improve job training and employment programs; strengthen enforcement of laws that protect workers’ wages and working conditions; ensure a strong safety net for workers who lose their jobs or are hurt on the job; and promote a secure retirement for workers at the end of their careers?” Obama asked.
"We need more tax-paying workers, not more regulations. Regulations are job killers!" said Obama to much applause.
If OSHA was privatized, perhaps with a governing board that includes members of business associations such as the American Petroleum Institute or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, employers would be more willing to work with the agency, said Obama. He said he thought employers voluntarily would comply with workplace health and safety standards, eliminating the need for compliance officers, rulemaking activities and other “costly” line items.
“It takes them 10 years to promulgate a standard anyway,” Obama pointed out, “so what’s the point? It would be much faster and economical to just suggest employers follow rules and hope for the best. I’m confident they’ll do the right thing.”
It was at that point in the speech that Perez and Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels exited the room.
Money saved by privatizing OSHA would be used to help employers offset the cost of raising the minimum wage “so that hard-working Americans can earn wages that allow them to support their families and make ends meet,” said Obama.
Under Obama’s leadership, the deficit has been cut in half as a share of the economy, the largest four-year deficit reduction since the demobilization from World War II. Privatizing OSHA is an example of his administration's plan to make investments to grow the economy and expand opportunity, said the president.
(Brought to you courtesy of April Fool’s Day.)