Businesses criticize new Biden policy allowing union representatives to conduct job site inspections

Business organizations are expressing their opposition to a recent rule proposed by the Biden administration. The rule would grant permission for third-parties, which may include union representatives, to join federal inspectors during job site visits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the final rule earlier this year, but there are critics who argue that the rule extends beyond safety requirements and caters to the interests of unions and their recruitment initiatives. It is worth noting that this rule would be applicable to job sites, regardless of whether the workers have unionized or not.

The new “walkaround” rule, which will become effective on May 31 of this year, is being strongly opposed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several other business groups. They are leading the charge against this rule.

Beth Milito, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, stated that small businesses are committed to creating a safe work environment for their employees. They recognize the importance of reasonable mandates and inspections in achieving this goal. However, the final rule issued by OSHA goes beyond what is considered reasonable. This rule grants unlimited access to third-party individuals who can initiate and participate in workplace inspections, claiming to represent the employees. This not only infringes upon the private property rights of small business owners but also fails to enhance worker safety. Instead, it exposes small businesses to potential harassment from competitors, union representatives, and other malicious entities.

President Joe Biden has proudly proclaimed himself as the most pro-union president in history, and his commitment to supporting and strengthening labor unions is evident through his various initiatives and policies. These efforts, however, have sometimes come at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

Unions have welcomed these actions, while others have criticized them. Critics argue that taxpayers foot the bill for these efforts, which primarily benefit unions that tend to make political donations to Democrats.

According to OSHA, they maintain that the rule aligns with their previous practices and aims to enhance the comprehensiveness of inspections.

According to a news release earlier this year, the agency stated that the rule was implemented as a response to a court decision in 2017. The court ruling stated that only employees of the employer could be authorized as representatives under the existing regulation, 29 CFR 1903.8(c). However, the court also acknowledged that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) does not impose any restrictions on who can serve as an employee representative. It recognized OSHA’s historical practice as a “persuasive and valid construction” of the OSH Act. The final rule, which has been developed through notice and comment rulemaking, aims to clarify OSHA’s inspection regulation and align with its longstanding interpretation of the act.

A group of business associations has initiated a lawsuit to challenge the rule. In their legal filing, they argue that the rule infringes upon the private property rights of business owners. They are requesting that the enforcement of the rule be either postponed or completely invalidated.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated in its announcement of the lawsuit that OSHA has made a significant change by expanding the range of third parties allowed to join inspectors during walkarounds, which goes against over 50 years of established precedent.

The chamber also highlighted a news release in which the American Federation of Government Employees indicated that the new rule would facilitate unions’ efforts to organize in previously unexplored areas.

According to a statement from Marc Freedman, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Employment Policy Division, OSHA’s new walkaround rule is seen as the Administration’s attempt to prioritize unionization above all else. Freedman suggests that while OSHA claims the rule is focused on workplace safety, some union organizers have openly admitted that its real purpose is to gain access to nonunionized workplaces in order to further their organizing efforts.

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MBS Staff
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