On April 28, Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., sent Scalia a letter accusing the Department of Labor of having given up his mission. Even when millions of workers risked their health to do work that was deemed essential, OSHA had done little more than issue a humble list of voluntary safety guidelines. Trumka urged Scalia to introduce temporary emergency standards that require companies to follow certain rules to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as: B. Providing personal protective equipment to employees and following social distancing guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control.
Scalia's reply was polite but adamant. "Correspondence like yours can help us do our job better," he began, but then insisted that Trumka's complaints were riddled with "profound misunderstandings." Imposing temporary emergency standards is unnecessary, wrote Scalia, because OSHA already had the power to punish irresponsible companies under the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to create an environment that is "free of perceived hazards". This was the basis for OSHA's actions against SeaWorld in 2010 – regardless of the objections Scalia raised at the time, which were so strenuous that judges [ Judith W.] Rogers once asked him if he believed that “the agency was under the General Duty Clause No role play. "The clause has played little lately, said Trumka, since the beginning of the pandemic OSHA has received more than ten thousand complaints about unsafe conditions related to the virus. It only issued two quotations under the General Duty Clause.
The pandemic would likely have overwhelmed OSHA, no matter who ran the Department of Labor. Founded in 1970, OSHA has a budget less than one-tenth the size of the Environmental Protection Agency. Limited resources, gentle penalties, and fierce opposition from business interests have long hampered OSHA's ability to cope with the unsafe conditions that result in the death of approximately five thousand workers annually, with injuries caused by nearly three million other injuries.
However, there are ways OSHA can notify companies that willful breach of the law will have serious consequences. One such method is negative publicity. In 2014, David Michaels, who ran OSHA under Barack Obama, stated after four workers at a DuPont plant in Texas were exposed to carbon monoxide and died of suffocation: “Nothing can bring these workers back to loved ones. . . . Here at OSHA, we want DuPont and the chemical industry at large to hear this message clearly. “The statement was part of an initiative launched under Obama to shed light on companies that have acted recklessly. According to Matthew Johnson, a Duke economist and author of Regulation by Shaming, a study of the chilling effects of politics, such messages directed to local media and specialist publications resulted in a 30 percent reduction in violations in nearby areas Bodies in the same branch. […]