Last week in Chicago I participated in a conference for the Work Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG). I have been a Board member since its inception in 1996, and edit its national magazine Workers’ First Watch. The conference commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Commission on Worker’s (then Workmen’s) Compensation. The conference presenters, Republican appointees of the Nixon administration, concluded that only a few of the 18 basic recommendations for injured workers (sufficient and timely benefits, medical care, etc) had been reached.
One lonely success story was the OSHA record. Nick Walters, a Regional Director of OSHA, presented devastating news for the “we need less government” crowd. He noted before OSHA was created in 1970, fourteen thousand Americans died annually on the job. Forty years later, in 2010, based in large part on OSHA safety regulations, work related deaths were reduced by 70%. For those on the “job-killing regulation” bandwagon, the undeniable fact is that OSHA is helping prevent employers from killing workers. Additionally, a recent Harvard-Berkley study indicated a 9.4% drop in injury claims for employers in the four years following an OSHA inspection. Those employers who have been inspected saved 26% in worker’s compensation costs, an average of $355,000 per employer.
An interesting corollary article caught my eye in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Emission tests that used to be the purview of public employees, were now privatized and sent out to private service stations and garages (the garages make a whopping $2 per emission test). As could be predicted, the incidence of failed emission testing increased by 50% (from 6% to 9%)in the one month since the private vendors began testing. Moreover, anecdotal stories indicated older, more vulnerable drivers were being ripped off by service stations indicating they needed unnecessary and expensive repairs. Scott Walker’s administration saved a whopping $600,000 by laying off public workers and allowing private garages to conduct the tests. Poor people and those with older model cars are routinely ripped off due to this “privatization:” yet another example of a formerly public enterprise yielding a bad result at the expense of the common good.
Full article is here: Privatized Emissions Testing Off To Bumpy Start.