Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Union Invasion? Roby details targeting of Alabama auto manufacturers on Fox News

April 10, 2014
Representative Roby In The News

Are unions trying to invade the South?

That was the hotly-debated question on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News program on Thursday night.

According to the “On the Record” host, a complaint by Wal Mart to the National Labor Relations Board claims that a union official “chased” a female employee into the restroom of one of their stores and interrogated her about her wages and hours. But the incidents Van Susteren was most interested in talking about Wednesday evening focused on the State of Alabama.

Recent reports revealed that The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been teaming up with labor unions during investigatory visits to non-unionized businesses. On top of that, it appears that OSHA may also be specifically targeting southern auto manufacturers without proper justification.

OSHA recently launched a “Regional Emphasis Program” (REP) to inspect automobile and auto parts manufactures in the Southeast, specifically Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. According to a trade publication, “This new Auto Supply Manufacturers enforcement program will target manufacturers in the southeast that supply engines, airbags, trim, or any other automotive products.”

REPs are a fairly common OSHA tool. However, they usually come with some justification for the special emphasis. For instance, an REP targeting “powered industrial trucks” cited a spike in forklift accidents and injuries. Although the data they used was fairly old, it at least provided some justification for their decision to pay special attention to industrial trucks. Other REPs that cited data as justification for special emphasis included REPs targeting noise hazards and landscaping and horticultural services.

But OSHA’s decision to target southern auto manufacturers does not appear to contain a data-driven explanation, leading to speculation that it’s another hat tip to the unions who have grown frustrated by their inability to gain a toehold in southern states.

“It came to light for us when we noticed there were more and more stories being reported around the country where OSHA was designating union representatives to come along for inspections in non-unionized industry,” Rep. Martha Roby, R-AL02, explained to Van Susteren. “At the same time, OSHA issued what’s called a ‘Regional Emphasis Program’ that targeted the automotive parts suppliers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, and they did so without justification… We’re questioning whether or not this Administration’s interpretation of the law affords OSHA the unilateral opportunity to bring along a union rep to a non-unionized corporation for an inspection, but also to target specific industry in a specific part of the country without offering the appropriate justification.”

An OSHA representative told Van Susteren that their emphasis programs “are based on Bureau of Labor and Statistics injury and illness data as well as OSHA’s experience in the local area.” OSHA claimed they decided to focus on Alabama because they had received 54 complaints from workers in the state’s auto parts manufacturing businesses.

But Roby contends that the data OSHA is using to justify their actions is so old that it isn’t relevant to the current debate.

“The data that they’re relying on to highlight a ‘problem’ in Alabama is data from 2010,” Roby said. “So… if there was such a problem in Alabama in 2010, why are we doing a Regional Emphasis Program four years later in 2014?”

Roby said she has seen no reasonable justification for OSHA’s targeting of southern auto-manufacturers, leading her and others to conclude that it is little more than an attempt to help the Obama Administration’s political allies in the labor unions.

“If you’re going to treat similar businesses differently in different parts of the country — and there’s a very high bar of justification for doing so — we’ve asked OSHA to provide us with this data and all they can give us is this 2010 data,” Roby said in conclusion.

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