The December 2010 issue of Scientific American, page 12,  features my letter to them about the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), HR 2067 and S 1580.  I appreciate the way that the editors enlarged this quote on their letters page:  “When whistleblowers speak truth to power, they could finally hold employers accountable.”

Since I wrote my letter, I learned that the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, has released the number of workplace fatalities for 2009. In that year, only 4,340 Americans died on the job. This is a 17% drop from the prior year, showing the effects of the recession. The recession was particularly hard on the construction industry which which has historically contributed more than its share of fatalities.

Also, although there has been no advancement of the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), HR 2067 and S 1580, Rep. George Miller was successful in getting the Robert C. Byrd Miners Safety and Health Act passed by the House Judiciary Committee. It is H.R. 5663. Section 701 of this bill is equivalent to PAWA’s modernization of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It would, if passed, finally give workplace health and safety whistleblowers a meaningful protection from retaliation. The companion bill in the Senate, S. 3671, is still in committee. I imagine that during the lame duck session, Rep. Miller will be looking for a must-pass bill to which he can attach the Robert D. Byrd Miners Safety and Health Act. If the Senate would concur, then our workplaces would become safer through the protection of safety whistleblowers.

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