The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 04, 2015

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Mixed results for poll on union views

WASHINGTON (PAI) — Gallup polls on Americans’ views about unions contain a mixed message for workers and their allies: Union favorability is at its highest in almost a decade – but support for so-called “right to work” laws is up, too.

The polls, released two weeks before Labor Day, also show the labor movement has an education job to do, since two-thirds of those surveyed support RTW even when they’re told that non-union workers, too, benefit from union-won gains.

The polls were released as the labor movement continues its campaign to turn itself into a mass movement of workers, especially for workers – port truck drivers, fast food workers, retail workers, cabdrivers, “independent contractors” and more – most in need of workplace protection. Millions of those workers are unorganized, or, under current law, unorganizable.

Federal data shows 11 percent of U.S. workers are unionists, including one of every 14 in private industry. Adding in the “free riders” -- workers whom right-to-work laws order unions to represent without requiring payment for their services -- unions cover one of every eight U.S. workers. Some 17 percent of households have unionists in them, the Gallup poll says.

Gallup reported 58 percent of all respondents have favorable views of organized labor, the highest share since 2008, when 59 percent approved. But in a measure of the volatility of such polling, the approval rating declined by 11 percentage points from 2008-2009, to 48 percent, before rising. In 2009, 45 percent disapproved of unions. Now 38 percent disapproved.

The right-to-work survey, taken a year ago in August, and now re-posted on Gallup’s site, shows a nine-percentage point increase in backing for such laws, which unions and their allies call “right to work for less” laws. The first survey, in 1957, showed 62 percent-27 percent support for RTW. The latest, last year, was 71 percent-22 percent pro-RTW, with a 74 percent-18 percent margin among Republicans for the union-busting legislation.

“The poll finds 82% agreeing ‘no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,’ a position advanced by right-to-work proponents,” Gallup reported last year. “By 64% to 32%, Americans disagree workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the union,’" it adds.

GOP inserts silica rule delay in budget

WASHINGTON (PAI)—By voice vote, the Republican-run Senate Appropriations Committee last month inserted a one-year delay in the federal efforts to cut workers’ exposure to silica dust. The move is in the money bill for the Labor Department for the year starting Oct. 1.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., inserted the delay into the mammoth funding bill. He also gives the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) $800,000 in that fiscal year for another study of silica’s impact when workers breathe it. Silica causes lung disease.

But this study, Hoeven orders, must also cover “ability of regulated industries to comply with occupational exposure limits” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposes. And NIOSH must include the costs of purchasing respirators for workers as well as the costs of engineering – water for dust control and ventilation -- to cut overall silica exposure.

After years of study and years of complaints from workers and unions, OSHA finally proposed, in 2013, to cut silica exposure in half, pleasing AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

He said it would protect at least 2 million workers in construction, shipyards and oil and gas drilling and save hundreds of lives. OSHA took 16 years to develop the new rule, he noted.

“Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis, a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer and other diseases,” Trumka said then. “The current OSHA silica standard was adopted decades ago and fails to protect workers. It allows very high levels of exposure and has no requirements to train workers or monitor exposure levels. Simply enforcing the current rule, as some in industry have called for, won’t protect workers. This new standard will.”

It’s unclear whether President Obama will use his veto, since it’s part of a big funding bill.