Trump’s Labor Dept. yanks beryllium protections. The Trump administration’s Labor Department has dumped added beryllium exposure protections for construction and longshore workers, saying the issue needs further study.

“No matter where they work, U.S. workers deserve protection from exposure to hazardous – and potentially lethal – toxic materials,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “The proposal to weaken standards that limit exposure to beryllium for shipyard and construction workers is a step backwards.”

Led by the Steelworkers, unions representing affected workers pushed hard for extra protections during an 18-year fight over cutting workers’ exposure to beryllium, which causes chronic lung disease.

“Representatives of the shipyards and construction industries … raised concerns they had not had a meaningful opportunity to comment on the application of the rule to their industries when the rule was developed in 2015-16,” OSHA said.

Under OSHA’s plan, all workers, including longshore and construction workers, still would have to be better protected from exposure to beryllium. The better protection is still expected to cut worker exposure by at least half.

Pope speaks out for unions. Reflecting his own principles and Catholic social teachings, Pope Francis is speaking out strongly for unions – again. But this time, he’s also warning them of “epochal challenges” and not to become complacent, to advocate for all workers, and to keep their watchdog role over the corporate class.

“There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day…that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones,” Francis declared in remarks to Italian Confederation of Trade Unions (CISL) delegates.

Francis’s comments come at a time when unions and workers are under fire in several western democracies, including the United States.

Francis said the labor movement must “face and defeat” the epochal challenges from its foes “if it is to continue to perform its essential role for the common good.”

Francis also criticized laissez-faire capitalism, which not only “does not understand the value of the trade union” but “has forgotten the social nature of the economy, of the business.

“This is one of the greatest sins,” he declared.

Radical Right in House targets NLRB again. The radical right-wing Republican majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee has once more taken aim at unions and the National Labor Relations Board in a hearing on three anti-worker bills.

The assault, in the subcommittee which handles labor law rewrites, left Communications Workers General Counsel Guerino Calemine and subcommittee Democrats out on a limb against “a naked political assault on labor unions – and nothing more,” as Calemine put it.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., introduced a bill aimed at construction workers’ wages, doubling the dollar threshold for exempting federal construction projects from Davis-Bacon (the federal Prevailing Wage Act).

A second, HR2776, from U.S. Rep. Denny Walberg, R-Mich., would overturn the NLRB’s recent decisions that removed some pre-election obstacles bosses throw in the way of organizing campaigns.

A third, HR2775 by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., curbs the information unions can get once they file for recognition elections.

Another, HR2723, from U.S. Rep. David Roe, R-Tenn., forces unions to frequently stand for re-certification, and unions would need to get a majority of votes from all workers at a site, not just most of those voting.

That means “all non-votes are considered ‘no’ votes,” Calemine said.

Roe’s bill also would restrict workers from even voluntary contributions for anything other than bargaining or contract enforcement, essentially robbing unions of resources.

Last Berger-Marks funds to go to project on building women’s leadership. The remaining funds from the Berger-Marks Foundation – which had sponsored recognition of rising young female labor leaders – will now go to a joint Georgetown University-Rutgers University project on building women’s labor leadership.

“Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor will identify, nurture, train and convene a new generation of diverse, female labor leaders in a collaborative effort with Rutgers University” and its Center for Innovation in Workers Organization, the foundation said.

“It is essential to train and lift up a new generation of powerful and diverse women’s leadership who can chart a path forward for working people,” said Linda Foley, the former Newspaper Guild president who heads Berger-Marks.

The foundation closed June 30 after transferring $1.5 million to the initiative. It was established in 1997 to honor the memory of Edna Berger, the first female lead organizer for The Newspaper Guild, and her husband, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Gerald Marks.

News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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