The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Bush Nominees for Labor Safety Slots Have Questionable Records

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 25, 2005 – In two nominations to Department of Labor positions charged with overseeing workplace health and safety issues, President Bush named two men known for advocating business interests, in lieu of people with any known record of promoting worker protections.

The mid-September nominations of Edwin G. Foulke to be assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, plus Richard Stickler for the parallel mine safety and health assistant secretary slot, have received little attention so far, but surfacing information appears to indicate that both men are beholden to corporate interests.

As a partner with Jackson Lewis, a South Carolina law firm specializing in business law, Foulke penned several items challenging workplace safety regulations, including a five-page essay published by the South Carolina Bar trashing federal ergonomics standards that had been in the making since the late 1980s and were put into place at the end of the Clinton presidency.

Though Foulke is his law firm’s head of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance, organized labor considers Jackson Lewis a union-busting law practice. Among the more notorious anti-labor activities the firm has been involved in were an attempt to undermine negotiations at a Borders book store and two separate lengthy, expensive union-busting campaigns against nursing home and home health care workers in New York facilities.

The law firm was also involved in helping the battery company EnerSys stave off union representation. EnerSys was eventually cited for a number of labor law violations and subsequently sued Jackson Lewis for allegedly giving it advice to take illegal actions against workers. Jackson Lewis denied the claims.

Stickler’s record is less well-known. According to the Charleston Gazette, the United Mine Workers opposed his nomination to head Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Deep Mine Safety in 1997 over what they cited as a poor track record in more than 30 years as a company manager with Bethenergy Mines. The Mine Workers have yet to take an official position on the pending appointment.

In a 1997 letter to then-governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, UMW Safety Director Joe Main noted that mines managed by Stickler showed a "very poor compliance record" and cited government numbers demonstrating that one such operation, Eagle’s Nest in Boone county, West Virginia, reported injuries at double the national average, the Gazette reported.

Both nominations are currently in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; hearings have yet to be scheduled.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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