By Mark E. Anderson / Daily Kos
On March 25, 1911, on three floors of the Asch Building in Manhattan, young immigrant women from across Europe were making clothing for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. On that fateful day, a fire broke out. There was no time to escape, and really nowhere to escape to. There was only one fire escape, and it collapsed. Doors were locked to prevent theft and unauthorized breaks. They also opened the wrong way, and many of the young women were trampled trying to escape. Long tables and machinery blocked escape routes for many of the workers. There was no sprinkler system, and there were no fire extinguishers. Fire department ladders were not long enough to reach the eighth, ninth, and 10th floors.
That day saw the deaths of 123 young women and 23 men. The youngest victim was 14 years old.
In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote a novel titled The Jungle. It told the story of Jurgis Rudkis, an immigrant trying to find his way and support his family in his new country. This book tells a tale of food poisoning, work accidents, unsafe and unsanitary practices in the meat-packing industry, and the exploitation of immigrant workers who came to America for a better life, only to find that they are surrounded by employers that treat them as if they are expendable and con men who want to take what little money they have.
What do the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and The Jungle have in common?
Both of them led to government regulations. The Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 led to the creation of what we know today as the Food and Drug Administration. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire led to many of the fire regulations we take for granted today. That is why doors open out into stairwells, and it’s why we have fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and sprinklers. If you ever went outside your grade school for a fire drill, then you participated in one of the regulations created out of that fatal fire.
This past week, the current temporary resident of the White House signed four bills into law that would nullify “job-killing” regulations.
This is a term that should not exist.
The regulations that were rolled back were not created in a vacuum. The reason we have regulations is because a business or an individual did something that brought harm to someone else, or something was discovered that could bring harm to people. Those who call them “job killers” are the reason the rules were created in the first place.
Case in point: one of the regulations Trump repealed earlier this year restricted the dumping of coal waste in streams and rivers. Now, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say this is a bad thing.
The argument that not allowing coal waste to be dumped in rivers and streams kills jobs is bunk. Coal mining jobs are going away, and they are never coming back. It costs the mine owners more money to contain coal waste—that is why this regulation was repealed.
Another regulation repealed was the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule. This rule:
[B]arred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor or workplace safety laws. That regulation, derided by critics as the “blacklisting” rule, was already held up in court.
Seems fair, doesn’t it? You violate federal law, you should not get a federal contract. The reason given for repealing this rule?
“The rule simply made it too easy for trial lawyers to go after American companies and American workers who contract with the federal government,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.
It’s almost impossible to say what trial lawyers have to do with this regulation. The real reason this was repealed? It was likely costing a federal law-violating business owner with deep pockets a lot of money, as he or she could not get federal contracts.
Another rule that was repealed is one that would have prevented mentally ill people from purchasing firearms.
The rule required the Social Security Administration to submit records of mentally disabled people to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the FBI database used to determine whether someone can buy a firearm under the 1993 Brady Bill.
There were some privacy issues with this rule, but those could have been alleviated. This was a rule that was repealed solely because the Republican Party is beholden to the NRA.
Regulations and laws are not job killers. That is just an excuse to attack government for preventing a business owner from causing harm to their employees or the environment—or in the case of the last rule mentioned above, for saving someone from themselves. These regulations would not need to exist if all business owners treated their employees fairly, provided a safe work environment, and did not fill the environment with toxic chemicals.
Trump’s repeal of these Obama-era rules is nothing more than a handout to his Mar-a-Lago golf buddies.