President Biden’s Executive Order on Health and Safety a Positive First Step

January 29, 2021

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During his campaign, President Biden promised to stand with workers, and direct the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to implement stronger coronavirus safety standards to keep workers safe. 

On January 21, President Biden fulfilled one of his promises, issuing the “Executive Order on Health and Safety.” 

The order mandates that “the Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. That will require issuing science-based guidance to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure, including with respect to mask-wearing; partnering with state and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.”

In order to meet these requirements, the Executive Order provides the Secretary of Labor, through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, with wide authority to reshape OSHA’s enforcement efforts to better protect workers on the job. 

This Executive Order will apply to the Postal Service, as the USPS is the only government agency subject to regulation by OSHA.

“This is a complete change from the Trump Administration that had directed OSHA to take a relative ‘hands off’ approach to worker safety – especially concerning COVID-19,” said Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman. “We expect guidance to be issued that can significantly improve worker safety and management accountability at the USPS within the coming weeks. Once any standards or instructions are issued by OSHA we will reach back out to the field.”

New Pro-Worker Appointments at Department of Labor

In addition to the Executive Order, the administration also recently announced appointments to various roles in the Department of Labor, signaling a strong commitment to pro-worker policy. 

Jim Frederick, formerly a consultant for the APWU advising our response to COVID-19, was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary at OSHA. Mr. Frederick is a dedicated unionist and former safety specialist for the United Steel Workers.

“Having a person leading OSHA who truly believes that all workers deserve a safe and work environment is important,” said President Mark Dimondstein.

Additionally, on his first day in the White House, President Biden fired National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb, who had moved the NLRB in a sharply pro-management direction during his tenure. President Biden’s appointment as acting General Counsel was Peter Sung Ohr, who gained wide recognition as a strong pro-worker advocate in his role as the NLRB Chicago Regional Office Director. President Biden also appointed former BCTGM General Counsel Jeff Freund as Director of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).

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