Construction worker dowel drilling on a runway in August, with heat up to 104 degrees that day. Photo: NIOSH

President Trump’s Budget Leaves Workers Behind

, executive director | July 11, 2017, 8:58 am EDT
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This post is a part of a series on Understanding the Budget

Budgets reflect priorities; they also reflect values. And the Trump Administration has signaled where it stands loud and clear via its agency appointments (Scott Pruitt, need we say more?) and its FY18 budget proposals. We have already said plenty about what the proposed cuts to the EPA budget mean for public health and the environment.

A recap here, here, here, here. Many others are also ringing that alarm bell (here, here, here).

Less in the public eye is the Administration’s budget proposals for agencies that protect another critical resource—our nation’s workforce! We do have some indication of where Congress and the Administration stand on worker health and safety (here, here)—and it’s not reassuring.

Trump budget puts worker health on chopping block

Let’s cut to the chase. President Trump’s FY18 budget proposals are not good for working people; these are our loved ones, our families’ breadwinners. They are also essential contributors to powering our economy…you know, making America great.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the cuts our President has proposed for our primary worker health and safety agencies—the agencies that safeguard and protect our nation’s workforce:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). $9.5 million budget cut; staffing cuts in enforcement program; elimination of safety and health training grants for workers. OSHA was created by Congress to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.” It is our nation’s bulwark in protecting workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education and assistance to employers and workers. At current budget levels, OSHA can only inspect every workplace in the United States once every 159 years.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). An astounding 40% budget cut. NIOSH is our nation’s primary federal agency responsible for conducting research, transferring that knowledge to employers and workers, and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illness and injury. These draconian cuts will essentially eliminate academic programs that train occupational health and safety professionals (occupational medicine physicians and nurses, industrial hygienists, workplace safety specialists) that serve both employers and workers. It will eliminate extramural research programs that conduct, translate, or evaluate research, as well as state surveillance programs for occupational lead poisoning, silicosis, and other diseases.
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). $3 million cut to the agency’s budget on top of previous $8 million cut. This will reduce the number of safety inspection in U.S. coal mines by nearly 25%. MSHA was established in 1977 to prevent death, illness, and injury from mining and to promote safe and healthful workplaces for U.S. miners. (The first federal mine safety statute was passed in 1891.)

Some context

My reflections on this year’s Worker Memorial Day pretty much capture it. But here’s a quick summary:

  • In 2015, 4,836 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries, the highest number since 2008. That’s about 13 people every day! In the United States!
  • Deaths from work-related occupational disease—like silicosis, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung), occupational cancer, etc.—are not well captured in data surveillance systems. It is estimated that another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases—an astounding number. And, for many, their deaths come years after suffering debilitating and painful symptoms.
  • And then there are the nonfatal injuries and illnesses. Employers reported approximately 2.9 million of them in private industry workers in 2015; another 752,600 injury and illness cases were reported among the approximately 18.4 million state and local government workers.
  • There were nine fatalities and 1,260 reportable cases of workplace injury in the US coal mining industry in 2016.

Speak out opportunity this week

The House subcommittee on Labor–HHS Appropriations has scheduled the markup on the FY 2018 Labor–HHS funding bill for Thursday, July 13, 2017. This is the bill that funds OSHA, MSHA, and NIOSH, as well as the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Now is the time to give the appropriators an earful on these proposed cuts—cuts that seriously endanger workers’ safety and health, essentially leaving them behind. Reach out to members of the House appropriation subcommittee and committee and urge them to oppose these cuts to our worker health and safety agencies. Also urge them to oppose any “poison pill riders” to block or delay the implementation of worker protection rules.

Here’s a list of members of the Labor–HHS subcommittee. Members of the full Appropriations Committee are listed here.

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  • Timothy King

    Strange, no comments either for, or against this article.

  • Jamar StClair

    How can Trump take away 25% of the mine inspections?! I am a coal miner and we need the inspectors! Put Trump in the coal mines and see how he does!

    • Jamar StClair

      Obama wouldn’t have cut funding, he gave to MSHA! Because of Obama, mining increased 50%!

  • Timothy King

    Ms. Rest, you should be ashamed of yourself; this is nothing more than fearmongering in its finest.
    You state, and I quote, “Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). $3 million cut to the agency’s budget on top of previous $8 million cut. This will reduce the number of safety inspection in U.S. coal mines by nearly 25%.”
    First, please validate your statement that this will reduce the number of safety inspections in U.S. coal mines by 25%; for this cannot occur, as the Mine Act states unequivocally that all active below ground mines must be inspected at least four times per year, and all active above ground mines must be inspected twice a year, with NO exceptions.
    Second, you point out how much will be cut from the budget, $3 million dollars this year on top of the PREVIOUS administrations cut of $8 million dollars, but you do not mention that the actual 2016 budget was $375.8 million, the 2017 budget was $375.1 million, and the 2018 budget is $375.1 million (with an allowed outlay of $378 million) – where is this $3 million drop, let alone the ‘previous $8 million cut’ you so blatantly claim? Maybe you would have been more truthful if you would have stated that MSHA had asked for a 2017 budget of $397.3 million, but it was cut by the previous administration by $22 million; every year MSHA asked for the $20 million more, and every year it was cut, EXCEPT this year – they only asked for what they needed. And maybe you should have saw fit to enlighten people on how many mines remain in existence in the United States:
    • 2010 – 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines (gold, copper, beryllium, cement, limestone, etc.),
    • 2011 – 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2012 – 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2013 – 2,400 coal mines and 12,500 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2014 – 2,300 coal mines and 11,600 metal and non-metal mines
    • 2015 – 1,950 coal mines and 12,158 metal and non-metal mines
    • 2016 – 1600 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2017 – 1500 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2018 – 1300 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    As you can see, during the last administration, coal mines went from a peak of 2,400, to the present level of 1,300 – a 46% loss of mines, and workers.
    I will not even go into your information about OSHA or EPA, for you have set the tone; and for that, I need go no further in my rebuking.
    A good journalist will verify their facts before throwing them out there; a bad journalist, a scaremonger, a leach upon society, will throw out unsubstantiated facts and diatribes as if it was the gospel – which one do you consider yourself?

    Speak the truth Ms. Rest, speak the truth.

  • Timothy King

    Ms. Rest, you should be ashamed of yourself; this is nothing more than fearmongering in its finest.
    You state, and I quote, “Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). $3 million cut to the agency’s budget on top of previous $8 million cut. This will reduce the number of safety inspection in U.S. coal mines by nearly 25%.”
    First, please validate your statement that this will reduce the number of safety inspections in U.S. coal mines by 25%; for this cannot occur, as the Mine Act states unequivocally that all active below ground mines must be inspected at least four times per year, and all active above ground mines must be inspected twice a year, with NO exceptions.
    Second, you point out how much will be cut from the budget, $3 million dollars this year on top of the PREVIOUS administrations cut of $8 million dollars, but you do not mention that the actual 2016 budget was $375.8 million, the 2017 budget was $375.1 million, and the 2018 budget is $375.1 million (with an allowed outlay of $378 million) – where is this $3 million drop, let alone the ‘previous $8 million cut’ you so blatantly claim? Maybe you would have been more truthful if you would have stated that MSHA had asked for a 2017 budget of $397.3 million, but it was cut by the previous administration by $22 million; every year MSHA asked for the $20 million more, and every year it was cut, EXCEPT this year – they did not ask for an added $20 million. And maybe you should have saw fit to enlighten people on how many mines are in existence in the United States:
    • In the year 2010, there were 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines (gold, copper, beryllium, cement, limestone, etc.) In the United States,
    • 2011 – 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2012 – 2,100 coal mines and 12,700 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2013 – 2,400 coal mines and 12,500 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2014 – 2,300 coal mines and 11,600 metal and non-metal mines
    • 2015 – 1,950 coal mines and 12,158 metal and non-metal mines
    • 2016 – 1600 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2017 – 1500 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    • 2018 – 1300 coal mines and 12,200 metal and non-metal mines,
    As you can see, during the last administration, coal mines went from a peak of 2,400, to the present level of 1,300 – a 46% loss of mines, and workers.
    I will not even go into your information about OSHA or EPA, for you have set the tone; and for that, I need go no further in my rebuking.
    A good journalist will verify their facts before throwing them out there; a bad journalist, a scaremonger, a leach upon society, will throw out unsubstantiated facts and diatribes as if it was the gospel to further their own agenda – which one do you consider yourself?