Union representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are now accompanying federal government safety inspectors on site visits to review labor complaints at nonunion private businesses, The Daily Caller has learned.
SEIU and other labor unions can accompany the government inspectors on site visits due to a quiet and contested Obama administration rule clarification issued last year in response to a request from a union representative.
SEIU agents recently accompanied an inspector from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the Department of Labor, on three visits to nonunion work sites under contract with the Houston-based janitorial company Professional Janitorial Services (PJS).
The SEIU representatives gained entry alongside an OSHA inspector to a private office building cleaned by PJS in West Houston on October 29, 2013.
SEIU representatives also accompanied an OSHA inspector on visits to office buildings cleaned by PJS in Houston on October 29, 2013, and in Southwest Houston on November 7, 2013, but the union agents were denied access by the building owners each time.
The visits were made to investigate OSHA complaints by SEIU-friendly employees alleging that the nonunion janitorial company did not provide workers safety goggles and gloves in some instances. Though each of the inspections found proper goggles and gloves, OSHA fined PJS for other alleged infractions related to not keeping certain safety data sheets or providing proper training information on use of cleaning chemicals.
SEIU also accompanied OSHA on a site visit to Philadelphia International Airport in the spring of 2013 after SEIU-affiliated workers complained about a private airline’s safety hazards including allegedly not providing gloves. SEIU has been prominently advocating for wage and benefit hikes and increased training for workers at Philadelphia International and other airports.
The union representatives are allowed to accompany OSHA to nonunion work sites due to an Obama administration rule clarification that was accused in congressional testimony of violating federal laws.
OSHA deputy assistant secretary Richard Fairfax wrote in a February 21, 2013 clarification letter that union agents can accompany OSHA inspectors to site visits at companies without collective bargaining agreements. Fairfax wrote his letter in response to a query from United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union health and safety specialist Steve Sallman.
OSHA’s published regulation on the matter does not refer to unions, but allows for an OSHA-approved “third party who is not an employee of the employer (such as an industrial hygienist or a safety engineer)” to accompany an OSHA inspector.
Maurice Baskin, an attorney representing the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers, said in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that OSHA’s clarification letter violates the OSH Act and the National Labor Relations Act. Section 9 of the National Labor Relations Act holds that an “authorized representative” must be an agent from a union that a majority of the company’s employees have chosen, according to Baskin.
“By allowing outside union agents and community organizers access to nonunion employers’ private property, OSHA is injecting itself into labor-management disputes and casting doubt on its status as a neutral enforcer of the law,” Baskin testified.
OSHA did not return a request for comment. SEIU declined to comment.