Your life could become much more dangerous. Republican Supreme Court appointees appear poised to scrap basic safety standards for our workplaces, our food, our air and our water.
Congress gives federal agencies the power to enact regulations that protect us in our daily lives. Congress sets the goals, but leaves it up to the health and safety experts in those agencies to develop and enforce the regulations. I know the regulations don’t sound very exciting, but our government keeps us safe through them.
Do you remember the recall of lots of romaine lettuce because it caused outbreaks of E. coli? It was the Food and Drug Administration that protected us from disease. Working in a warehouse? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets standards to make sure you’re not breathing in dangerous chemicals like asbestos. Enjoying the fresh air on a clear, sunny day? Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency for limiting the amount of pollution that can enter our air.
These agencies save lives. Since OSHA’s inception half a century ago, its workplace safety regulations have saved the lives of more than 618,000 workers.
Republicans have been trying to gut these agencies for decades. Now, with the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority firmly in place, they still have their best chance.
In January 2022, the Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s vaccine or testing mandate from taking effect, which would have averted a quarter of a million hospitalizations.
The Court asserted that Covid is not an “occupational hazard” because people can become infected outside of work, and that allowing OSHA to regulate in this way would “significantly expand” its authority without clear authorization from Congress.
This is absurd at first glance. Section 2 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 clearly sets out OSHA’s authority to make and enforce regulations that protect workers from illness, injury and death on the job. of work. Congress does not need to list every specific workplace hazard before OSHA can protect workers.
What this decision tells us is that Republican Supreme Court appointees intend to reduce the agencies’ power to enact regulations. This term, the Court will also hear a case regarding the EPA’s authority to enforce the Clean Water Act. If the Court undermines the authority of the EPA, it will put our environment — and our health — at risk. Do you remember when the Cuyahoga River caught fire because it was overflowing with oil, acid and factory chemicals?
This is what we may come back to.
And what’s next? Are they going to eviscerate the Federal Trade Commission and put us all at risk of being defrauded? Target the Securities and Exchange Commission and deregulate the financial sector, triggering a new financial crisis?
You must beware. If the Republicans appointed to the Supreme Court succeed in gutting the regulatory agencies, we are all losers. This program is anti-worker, anti-consumer and anti-environment. The only thing it’s good for is business profits.