Businesses criticize Biden’s new rule allowing union reps to inspect job sites

Business organizations are voicing their opposition to a recent rule proposed by the Biden administration. The rule would permit third parties, including union representatives, to accompany federal inspectors during job site inspections.

The final rule, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration earlier this year, has faced criticism for extending its scope beyond safety needs and catering to unions and their recruitment efforts. It is worth noting that this rule would apply to job sites regardless of whether workers have unionized.

The new “walkaround” rule, which will go into effect on May 31 of this year, is being strongly opposed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups. They are at the forefront of the fight against this rule.

Beth Milito, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, expressed that small businesses acknowledge the importance of creating a safe work environment for their employees. They understand the need for reasonable mandates and inspections to achieve this goal. However, Milito believes that the final rule issued by OSHA goes beyond what is considered reasonable.

According to Milito, this rule enables unlimited third-party individuals to initiate and participate in inspections of private workplaces, claiming to represent the employees. She argues that this infringes upon the private property rights of small business owners and does not effectively enhance worker safety. Instead, it exposes small businesses to potential harassment from competitors, union representatives, and other parties with malicious intentions.

President Joe Biden has positioned himself as the most pro-union president in history and has implemented numerous measures to enhance union membership and recruitment initiatives, often utilizing taxpayer funds.

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Unions have welcomed these actions, while others have criticized them. Critics argue that taxpayers fund these efforts, which primarily benefit unions that often donate to Democratic political campaigns.

OSHA maintains that the rule aligns with previous practices and aims to enhance the thoroughness of inspections.

In a recent news release, the agency explained that the new rule was partly in response to a court decision in 2017. This ruling stated that the agency’s existing regulation only allowed employees of the employer to be authorized as representatives. However, the court also recognized that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) does not specifically limit who can serve as an employee representative. It acknowledged that OSHA’s historical practice was a valid interpretation of the OSH Act. The final rule, which has undergone a thorough process of notice and comment rulemaking, aims to clarify OSHA’s inspection regulation and aligns with the agency’s longstanding interpretation of the act.

A group of business organizations has recently filed a lawsuit challenging the rule on Tuesday. In their legal filing, they argue that the rule infringes upon the private property rights of business owners. They are requesting a delay in its enforcement or, ideally, for the rule to be completely nullified.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced a lawsuit, claiming that OSHA has disrupted decades of established practices by significantly broadening the range of third parties permitted to accompany inspectors during walkarounds.

The chamber highlighted a news release from the American Federation of Government Employees, which implied that the new rule would facilitate union organizing in previously unexplored areas.

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According to Marc Freedman, the vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Employment Policy Division, OSHA’s new walkaround rule is another example of the Administration’s push to promote unionization at any cost. Freedman states that while OSHA claims the rule is about workplace safety, some union organizers have publicly admitted that it is actually about gaining access to nonunionized workplaces in order to further their organizing efforts.

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