“We Are Going To Be Hiring Hundreds Of New OSHA Inspectors.” - In His First Week As U.S. Secretary Of Labor, Marty Walsh Talks About Unions, Jobsite Inspectors & An Emergency Temporary COVID-19 Standard
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Shortly after being confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor on March 22nd, Marty Walsh highlighted a number of issues that he sees as critical priorities for the American Workforce, including making sure Workers feel safe on the job, revisiting the need for an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19, putting Inspectors out in force on worksites, getting women back to work and rebuilding the Middle Class through Union Membership.
In the days following his swearing in, Walsh shared his thoughts on the issues he faces in his new role and emphasized his vision for the Department of Labor and the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
"What we want to do is make sure we bring the confidence and the respect back to those Workers who are working on behalf of the American People every single day. OSHA is a big part of it," Walsh told PBS's Judy Woodruff. "We are going to be hiring hundreds of new OSHA Inspectors. We're going to get them trained up. We're going to get them out into the jobsites."
Walsh's comments came as President Joe Biden's Administration vowed to focus on its $3 trillion Build Back Better infrastructure push, fresh off passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier in March.
While Walsh touted the importance of that legislation, he also carved out specific areas that he said were important to getting back to work, including issues important to contractors.
For example, while the American Rescue Plan extended $300 weekly Supplemental Unemployment Benefits through September 6th, Walsh said those payments aren't necessarily the best way to get people back to work.
Many contractors experienced that early in the pandemic, when then-$600 Supplemental Weekly Payments meant some Workers earned more via Unemployment Benefits than at work.
"We can't continue to extend Unemployment Benefits and not to get our economy back up and going," Walsh told Woodruff, before highlighting his experience in the construction industry and returning to his message of workers feeling safe on the job. "People need to be safe in their work site. I'm a former Construction Worker and safety needs to be the number one priority - not just in construction, but also all across the different industries all throughout our country."
Along those lines, Walsh also left open the possibility of OSHA issuing an ETS for COVID-19.
While President Biden gave the agency a March 15th deadline to consider the necessity for a uniform set of rules to combat the spread of the virus in the workplace, it didn't meet it - and Walsh said the issue was still on the table.
"We're going to take our time to get it right," Walsh told The Washington Post in an interview published on March 24th.
As an appointee of Biden, who has pledged himself to be "the most Pro-Union President you've ever seen," Walsh, a former Labor Organizer himself, highlighted his own affinity for Unions.
"If you look at the decline of the Middle Class and you look at the decline of the Labor Movement, there's a correlation between the two of them," Walsh told PBS. "And I think that when you see more people joining Unions and getting into them, you'll see more people in the Middle Class."
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