Roby Questions OSHA's Targeting of Southern Automotive Industry
A federal initiative targeting the southern automotive industry for special scrutiny raises questions given recent efforts to undermine "right to work" environments in states like Alabama, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) said Monday.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently initiated a "Regional Emphasis Program" targeting automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The OSHA directive claims workers in this industry are subject to "serious injuries, including amputations and deaths to employees," but cites no data to substantiate the claim. Nor does the directive explain why modern, non-union facilities in the South would warrant more scrutiny than their older, unionized counterparts in the Midwest.
In a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who oversees OSHA, Rep. Roby questioned how federal authorities could justify special scrutiny for southern automotive plants.
"While I recognize that certain aspects of heavy manufacturing are dangerous and accidents do unfortunately sometimes occur, I am not aware of a rash of amputations or deaths in Southeastern facilities," Rep. Roby wrote. "Absent a compelling rationale grounded in fact, OSHA’s targeted enforcement tactics become susceptible to charges that they are at best arbitrary, and at worst discriminatory.”
Rep. Roby also said the timing of this initiative is suspect given the recent rejection of an attempt to unionize a nearby Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., along with the revelation that union representatives have been allowed to accompany OSHA inspectors on visits to non-union facilities.
"It is understandable that many perceive these steps to be part of a coordinated effort to advance a pro-union agenda within the growing Southeastern automotive manufacturing industry, which is thriving due in part to the pro-business environment and skilled workforce found in our region," Rep. Roby wrote.
"As you know, employees in Southeastern facilities have repeatedly resisted unionization, most recently in February at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga. It is concerning that a federal government agency may be advancing on Southeastern workers a pro-union agenda that they do not want."
Rep. Roby said she looks forward to Secretary Perez's responses when he testifies before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 2. Rep. Roby is a member of the subcommittee.