GAO: Inspections More Likely for Employers with Labor Unrest

Employers experiencing labor unrest are about 6.5 times more likely to be inspected by the Occupational Safety & Health Admin. than the average employer, according to a government report released Aug. 31. The Gen. Accounting Office produced the report at the request of Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-N.C.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

GAO conducted the study from June 1999 to June 2000 and covered about 22,000 employers GAO researched 1) the extent to which employers experiencing labor unrest are more likely to be inspected than those with more tranquil labor relations, 2) whether OSHA has policies for performing inspections during periods of labor unrest, and 3) whether those policies are followed.  GAO noted that “labor unrest” means dissatisfaction among workers, but there is no consensus about the ways in which labor unrest develops or the forms it takes.

“[I]t is clear that there is some relationship between labor unrest and employees’ dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions,” wrote GAO.

GAO found that in 1994-98, about 68% of the almost 1,900 OSHA inspections conducted each year at companies experiencing labor unrest resulted from complaints, fatalities, or catastrophes. In contrast, only about 27% of the almost 100,000 total inspections OSHA conducted each year resulted from complaints, fatalities, or catastrophes. GAO said that among employers experiencing labor unrest, there was a higher proportion of complaint-based inspections at employers with unions than at non-union employers. [BNA 9/5/00]

“More disturbing are the questions about Gore’s attitude toward union corruption raised by his campaign’s closeness to figures convicted or implicated in violations of law… [T]he Gore campaign’s actions suggest a coziness with allies convicted of or implicated in illegally manipulating a union election. In 1960, John Kennedy campaigned as a backer of union positions but an opponent of union corruption. Gore takes the first stance but not, it seems, the second.”

– Columnist Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 4, 2000.