Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris April 10 released the U.S. Department of Labor's fiscal year 2014 budget request, saying, “The Department of Labor's fiscal year 2014 budget request is a critical ingredient in the Obama administration's plan to grow the economy from the middle class out, not from the top down. The investments we make at the department will help create good jobs, upgrade workers' skills so that they can succeed in those jobs, and make sure Americans can support their families with a decent wage and secure benefits.”
President’s Obama’s budget, which likely will not be approved by Congress as written, provides OSHA with $570.5 million. There is a $5.9 million increase for whistleblower protections, but a $2 million decrease in compliance assistance. Funding is including for the Voluntary Protection Program, and it appears that there will not be as many strategic partnerships and alliances in 2014.
Aaron Trippler, director of government affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association, pointed out that the budget request proposes a reorganization of OSHA’s regional structure and jurisdictional authority from its current operation of 10 regional offices to seven offices. The reorganization will involve the consolidation of OSHA’s Regions 1 (Boston) and 2 (New York); Regions 7 (Kansas City) and 8 (Denver); and, Regions 9 (San Francisco) and 10 (Seattle). These consolidations are expected to result in a savings of $1.3 million.
“While not being entirely positive for OSHA as compared to FY2013 final funding of around $565 million, it should be considered a positive that the agency received a small increase,” said Trippler. “What is even more positive is the fact that the president recognized that the sequester cuts went way too far when it comes to protecting worker health.”
Trippler called the proposed budget “terrible news for NIOSH,” noting it slashes $53 million from NIOSH’s 2013 appropriations, with programs such as the Education and Resource Centers and agriculture, forestry and fishing programs within the National Occupational Research Agenda facing the largest reductions.
The president's budget for the Department of Labor requests $12.1 billion in discretionary funding. It invests in programs that improve services for workers and job seekers and devotes significant resources to putting our veterans, particularly those with disabilities or other significant barriers to employment, back to work. It provides improved re-employment services that enable individuals newly separated from the military to successfully transition into civilian careers. It also focuses on helping the long-term unemployed get back to work.
Highlights of the FY 2014 budget request include:
- An additional $5.8 million for MSHA’s enforcement programs to pursue strategies that prevent death, disease and injury from mining, and $2.5 million to implement recommendations from the internal review conducted in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.
- An additional $5.9 million to bolster OSHA's enforcement of occupational safety and health and whistleblower laws.
- Nearly $14 million to combat the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, which deprives workers of benefits and protections to which they are legally entitled and puts law-abiding businesses at a disadvantage against employers who violate the law.
- An additional $3.4 million for the Wage and Hour Division to support greater enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- $5 million for the creation of a State Paid Leave Fund to assist workers who need to take time off to care for a child or other family member.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will receive a slight increase to $571 million dollars so it can protect the nation’s most valuable asset, its workers,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The budget also provides $381 million for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), including additional funding for MSHA’s enforcement programs to enforce and promote mine safety and health laws. This funding will be critical in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.”