Donald Cohen's blog

The Industry Assault on Public Health

November 15, 2011 - 12:55pm

By Donald Cohen

GOP members of the House and Senate have proposed a flurry of bills that would roll-back, and in some cases effectively repeal, some of the nation’s most important environmental, health and safety laws.

They are wrapping their proposals in anti-government rhetoric to avoid saying they want more polluted air, dangerous food or unsafe workplaces.  But the proposed bills are, in fact, complex, bureaucratic and lobbyist-friendly schemes that mask an assault on public health and safety.

The Buffet Rule and more fairness

September 20, 2011 - 5:38pm

President Obama threatened to veto any deficit reduction package that doesn’t include higher taxes on the wealthy.  It’s a welcome sign that Obama is demanding that wealthy Americans -- that have seen their incomes and wealth increase dramatically while working families are falling further behind -- do their part.

Republicans, conservative think tanks and pundits are trotting out their standard, and getting somewhat tiresome message points about how taxes on the wealthy will be a “job killer” and that asking the wealthy to do their part for the country is somehow “class warfare.”

Quote of the Day: Hoover Dam

September 11, 2011 - 3:52pm

“No great project was every proposed in the interest of the great unorganized public that groups of wealth seeking special privilege do not oppose it with a desire to divert the benefits for their personal gain.”

Burdett Moody, the Boulder Dam Association, 1923.

PG&E’s success in Washington led to failure in San Bruno

August 31, 2011 - 1:34pm

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the horrific gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 people in the Bay Area city of San Bruno was the result of a “litany of failures” by Pacific Gas and Electric.

Investigators charged PG&E with " poor record-keeping, inadequate inspection programs, and an integrity management program without integrity." According to internal PG&E documents and emails released in the investigation, PG&E had ample warning that the gas lines welds may have had dangerous flaws.     

Cutting Back on Housekeepers' Heavy Lifting

August 2, 2011 - 8:50pm

By Donald Cohen

Some hotel guests may be getting a better night sleep these days, but at the expense of the housekeepers who clean their rooms.  In what has been called an “amenities arms race,” many hotels now use luxury mattresses that weigh more than 100 pounds.  Multiply those 100 pounds by the 16 to 25 beds the typical housekeeper must make up daily. Add to that the  extra pillows to be fluffed,   thick duvets and decorative bed skirts  to be changed, without any reduction in the number of rooms each worker is required to clean.  It’s not hard to see  how this workload can lead to debilitating, often permanent, back, arm and shoulder, and rotator cuff injuries. 

Regulating Greenhouse Gases a Job Killer? Quit Crying Wolf

July 13, 2011 - 1:10pm

By Donald Cohen
There’s an old adage that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. That seems to be the unofficial motto of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which has spent the last forty years repeating (and repeating and repeating) the mantra that government regulations on businesses “kill jobs” and economic growth. But their predictions are repeatedly wrong.  The laws that they warned would bring economic ruin have become the basic health, safety, and environmental safeguards we now take for granted.

History Repeats Itself on Financial Reform

July 12, 2011 - 1:30pm

As the nation approaches the first anniversary of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, opponents are claiming that the new measure is extraordinarily damaging, especially to Main Street. But industry’s alarmist rhetoric bears striking resemblance to the last time it faced sweeping new safeguards: during the New Deal reforms. The parallels between the language used both then and now are detailed in a report released today by Public Citizen and the Cry Wolf Project.

The Cost of Delay: Explosive Dust

July 6, 2011 - 7:46pm

A recent fatal explosion at a Gallatin, Tennessee metals plant fueled by high concentrations of industrial dust highlights the need for action to protect American workers. Unfortunately, the workplace rules that would have prevented the tragedy still don’t exist . 

"What did we set up the government for?"

May 31, 2011 - 4:38pm

By Donald Cohen. Posted on May 31, 2011.

“I can’t see what all this talk is about. How is it wrong for the State to intervene with regard to the working conditions of people who work in the factories and mills? I don’t see what they mean. What did we set up the government for?”     (New York Senator Al Smith during debates regarding new health and safety legislation in the state, 1913)

The UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) co-publishes its eighth Research and Policy Brief, OSHA at 40: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, with the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH). This brief reviews the accomplishments of OSHA over its 40-year history, highlighting the agency's important role in reducing workplace fatalities and protecting workers in a variety of industries from harm. In the current anti-government political climate, we make the case for robust government regulations backed by scientific evidence and effective enforcement.

Massey CEO: "It's (Always) The Government's Fault"

May 20, 2011 - 4:23pm

By Donald Cohen. Posted on May 20, 2011.

The New York Times Editorial, The Truth About Upper Big Branch, starts this way:

“An inquiry by the state of West Virginia into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 workers has found the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, “profoundly reckless” in elevating its drive to produce profits above worker safety.”