04.11.2014 0

Is OSHA trying to unionize southern auto parts manufacturers?

osha_logo_pubBy Robert Romano

Alabama auto parts manufacturers only make up 2.9 percent of firms — 121 out of 4,103 nationwide according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Yet, they make up more than 9 percent of inspections of such manufacturers by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in 2014 as of April 10, data from the agency shows.

None of the targeted firms have been union shops, according to OSHA.

A similar story can be found in Georgia, which although it similarly makes up 2.9 percent of firms — 120 out of 4,103 nationwide — it was the target of more than 8 percent of inspections of auto parts manufacturers nationwide.

None were union shops.

Tennessee, which makes up 3.9 percent, or 159, of auto parts manufacturer firms nationwide, yet was the target of more than 9 percent of OSHA’s inspections.

Just one was a union shop, and that was because of an accident reported.

The heightened targeting in the southeast comes on the heels of a special “Regional Emphasis Program to reduce workplace exposures to safety hazards associated in the Auto Parts Supplier Industry” ordered by the agency on January 15.

These three states alone, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, although they make up just 9.7 percent of auto parts manufacturers, already constitute 26 percent of OSHA inspections for that industry group.

And consider, it’s only April. Other states in the same region include Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Kentucky, which have yet to see disproportionate targeting.

But then again, OSHA only has a limited number of inspectors to carry out the task. So, one presumes the other states will be hit up sooner or later, too.

After all, they’ve got the rest of the year, according to the agency: “This notice expires one year from the effective date, unless extended.”

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is furious about the targeted discrimination in her home state of Alabama. In a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Roby wrote, “Absent a compelling rationale grounded in fact, OSHA’s targeted enforcement tactics become susceptible to charges that they are at best arbitrary, and at worst discriminatory.”

Roby also complained about a new Labor rule that allows union organizers to tag along OSHA inspections in non-union shops, raising the specter that union bosses may now be directing the agency’s targeting.

When coupled with the regional targeting in the southeast, it begins to look a lot like OSHA is attempting to unionize southern auto parts manufacturers that are beating Detroit on price by keeping labor costs low.

But regardless of the motivation of the targeting, it appears these factories have been the targets of a pattern of discrimination by the agency, raising significant constitutional due process concerns.

On the surface, this appears like it could be extraordinary overreach by the Obama Administration. One hopes the aggrieved will sue to press their rights in federal court. In the mean time, the House of Representatives should immediately convene hearings on this topic, and defund any discriminatory targeting by OSHA via the appropriations process.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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