The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act included provisions to give workers modern whistleblower protections in mines, and in all workplaces governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It would fix the terribly weak protections of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. On Wednesday, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) brought the measure to a House floor vote through a motion to suspend the rules. The procedure requires that two thirds of the House agree. The motion received a majority of support, but not the two thirds required. It failed with 214 in favor and 193 against. Below is a link to Rep. Miller’s floor speech on the bill.
The need for Congressional modernization of Section 11(c) was the subject of my letter this month to the editors of Scientific American. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis issued a statement yesterday decrying the House’s failure to pass the bill. "Every day the lives of miners are needlessly being put at risk," Solis said. "That should be unacceptable to every single member of Congress. All workers deserve to come home safe at the end of a shift. I urge every legislator to join the president and me in committing to bringing miners the safety reforms they deserve." The Charleston Gazette said, "It’s a shame."
So, why did Rep. Miller use this procedure that requires a supermajority? It is evident that the bill will pass under normal procedures. However, those normal procedures require approval and scheduling by the Rules Committee. If this measure is not going to pass the Senate anyway, why bother doing anything other than record the votes of every member. The results were telling. All Republicans except one (Rep. Jones, NC) voted against the motion. Twenty-five (25) Democrats also voted against the motion, including two from Ohio who had strong support from labor unions (Reps. Boccieri and Ryan). Check out how your representative voted here. About five thousand Americans are dying every year on the job. I agree with the Gazette. It’s a shame.