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As Re-Election Campaign Gears Up, Obama Abandons Child Farm Worker Safety Rule – Working In These Times

May 9, 2012

BY MIKE ELK

WASHINGTON, D.C.—For more than three years, the Obama administration cooperated with workplace safety advocates to develop guidelines forbidding children as young as 12 from taking on perilous farm jobs. Farmwork is risky business: agriculture incurs six times as many workplace deaths as other industries.

But in a slight to workplace safety advocates, last week the Obama Administration announced that it was withdrawing a set of proposed rules that would have regulated child farm labor. “The decision to withdraw this rule—including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’—was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” read an official statement.

The anncouncement outraged workplace safety advocates. “Typically, I can find words to express my outrage. I can’t even find the words on this one,” says former OSHA official Celeste Monforton.

The rules were held up for nine months by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), an unusually long delay. The administration finally released the rules for a public comment period after two 14-year-old girls working on a farm in Illinois were electrocuted last summer, as I reported last September. Proponents felt confident that once the rules passed through the OMB, they would be published. So it came as a shock when the administration not only placed the rules on hold, but declared that it would never consider them again.

“If folks knew the truth about this rule, we do feel that [they] would have been supportive of this stuff,” says Norma Flores Lopez of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “These rules were common-sense rules that would have prevented children from getting hurt or possibly losing their lives. Abandoning [them] leaves a lot of children exposed and vulnerable.”

For workplace safety advocates, the Obama administration’s decision reflects a frightening trend that finds the president shirking workers’ interests as he readies his campaign  for November’s election. Another workplace safety proposal designed to limit workers’ exposure to cancer-causing silica dust has been in limbo for 14 months.

via As Re-Election Campaign Gears Up, Obama Abandons Child Farm Worker Safety Rule – Working In These Times.

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