Is Rove Using OSHA to Undo Damage with the Teamsters?
Every now and then even the Bush Administration can do the right thing. Today’s New York Times reports that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is announcing today new policies that will provide OSHA with the means to better coordinate inspections and enforcement actions against large multi-site employers who repeatedly violate safety rules. In fact, enforcement may already have started.
Although the new rules stopped way short of what some wanted in terms of increasing prison time for company officials whose indifference causes serious injuries or death, this is still a step in the right direction for an administration that is still trying to overcome its own self-inflicted injuries with Labor in the area of workplace safety, going all the way back to the Bush Administration’s scuttling of ergonomic rules and failure to produce an alternative.
As good as this move is, there is an interesting political dynamic at work here as well. This move, which could have been announced any time in the last two years, was announced two weeks after Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s disastrous appearance before the AFL-CIO national meeting, wherein she not only enraged organized labor generally, but the Teamsters specifically. As we know, Karl Rove has put a lot of effort into wooing the support of the Teamsters in the last two years, only to see Chao blow all of that up with one appearance.
Now, this initiative is announced, with a specific mention that one of the companies highlighted for such treatment due to its pathetic safety record, turns out to be the United Parcel Service (UPS), the single biggest employer of Teamster members in the world. Yet no one at UPS should really fear that OSHA would thrash them as a result of this new policy change.
Why? Because UPS is also one of the single biggest cash cows that the national GOP fundraising committees have over the last four years, having contributed over $1 million to GOP committees in that time, an amount that dwarfs many others. In fact, of that amount, UPS has donated $570,000 to the Republican National Committee alone.
But it won’t be lost on the Teamsters that OSHA is cracking down on long-standing complaints raised by the union about UPS’s safety record, coincidentally after Chao’s incendiary appearance. Of course, it remains to be seen if OSHA’s actions in implementing these policy changes match the rhetoric in announcing them.
Perhaps softening the blow for UPS somewhat in advance of this move was the appointment of UPS’s Chairman and CEO Michael Eskew on February 26 to the President’s Export Council.