Letter to The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor
Chairmen Miller, Kennedy Demand Labor Department Withdraw "Secret Rule'
Lawmakers also seek communications with outside special interests and other documents relating to proposed rule
July 23, 2008
U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, today called on U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to withdraw a last minute rule proposed by U.S. Department of Labor that could dramatically slow the enactment of future health and safety regulations that protect American workers.
The chairmen are also seeking documents relating to meetings and communications with outside groups regarding the development of the rule.
"This secret regulation is an attempt by the Bush administration and the business community to fundamentally weaken the scientific process for enacting new regulations that protect American workers," said Miller. "For nearly eight years, this administration has consistently failed to respond in a meaningful way to the real health and safety threats workers face while on the job. But, now they will stop at nothing to rush through a secret rule that will tie the hands of health and safety experts when responding to our nation's critical health and safety threats."
"Senator Kennedy strongly opposes this move," said Anthony Coley, a spokesperson for Sen. Kennedy. "It's outrageous that after spending seven and a half years refusing to respond to known workplace hazards, the Bush administration is now rushing to make it more difficult to protect workers from these dangers. It's just the latest example of the Bush administration's anti-worker, anti-science bias. America's working men and women deserve far better."
Miller and Kennedy first requested information regarding the proposed rule on July 10, when it was revealed that the department was working on a last-minute change to the regulatory process that would significantly inhibit the implementation of vital health and safety regulations.
The text of the letter sent by Miller and Kennedy today is below.
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
Secretary of Labor
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Secretary Chao:
We are deeply disappointed that the Department of Labor is working to slip through a rule that may have a profound negative impact on the health and safety of American workers. It is equally disturbing, according to today's Washington Post, that the Department is moving this proposal over the objections of career staff in the relevant health and safety agencies. Such career staff have the objective, technical expertise and experience to fully understand the proposal's implications for workers.
We therefore ask that the Department immediately withdraw the proposal entitled Requirements for DOL Agencies' Assessment of Occupational Health Risks (RIN: 1290-AA23).
There are long-established directives to ensure that the Administration acts in a transparent manner so that the public has the time and ability to properly consider all proposals. It appears that the Department may be violating those rules.
We are likewise concerned that the Department would seek a rule change in near total secrecy to this point - a change that will have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of American workers. We reiterate our interest in receiving the text of the proposed rule and respectfully remind you of our Constitutional prerogative and obligation to oversee the Department's regulatory actions. In addition, we request that the Department provide the following documents and information to the Committee no later than July 29th, 2008:
1. A list of all meetings concerning the development of this proposed regulation at which anyone not employed by the Department attended, including the dates of any such meetings, the names of those attending the meetings, and the agenda and minutes of those meetings.
1. All documents related to the development of this regulatory proposal.
1. A list of all oral communications, telephonic, electronic, in-person or otherwise, with external parties relating to the development of this proposed regulation, including the date of each such communications and the names of the individuals involved.
George Miller, Chairman
Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman