Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement Resources

The safety standards on which we rely daily for our food, medicines and cars. The energy and climate policies needed to save our planet. The new financial regulations designed to prevent banks from gambling with our money and creating another crisis. These are policies that should be determined in open, democratic venues where we have a say. But a group of the largest U.S. and European banks and corporations want to rewrite these safeguards behind closed doors. For over a decade, they have pushed for a new U.S. "trade" deal with Europe – the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which corporate proponents have tried to rebrand as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a deal that would roll back consumer protections on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Senate Bill Would Ensure Negligent Corporate Officials Are Held Accountable

On July 16, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Hide No Harm Act. The legislation would require corporate officers to disclose to employees, federal officials, and the public information and warnings about serious dangers associated with product defects or unsafe work practices. Currently, criminal fines and imprisonment are rarely imposed on individual corporate executives who have knowingly concealed such crucial information, but this bill would ensure that those personally responsible for decisions leading to serious injuries or deaths are held criminally accountable.

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DOT Allows Many Truckers Delivering Fireworks for 4th of July to Extend Work Hours

Approximately 35 million Americans will travel on our nation’s highways between July 2 and July 6 for Independence Day festivities, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Driving alongside them will be truckers hauling explosive fireworks to their destinations in time for Friday’s celebrations. But instead of bolstering public protections to ensure highway safety during one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has chosen to relax driving restrictions for truckers employed by more than 50 companies (see notices here and here) who will be transporting fireworks on heavily traveled roadways from June 28 to July 8.

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Chemical Safety Report Opens Door for Improvements, but Strong Requirements Still Needed

On June 6, the interagency working group that President Obama formed in the wake of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion released its report to the president, conveying its recommendations for improving chemical facility safety and security. The report outlines many of the significant problems facing chemical facility safety in this country, including limited information sharing, incomplete and incompatible regulations, and the need for greater use of safer technologies. The recommendations on these problems point in the right direction but leave the details to the individual agencies to resolve as they move forward on possible regulations and policy changes.

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Calls for Required Safeguards from Disasters Grow as Obama Administration Releases Report on Chemical Plant Safety and Security

While we are pleased the Working Group report included some of the recommendations made by the most endangered communities and workers, if the Obama administration is serious about protecting workers and communities, the president must stand up for prevention requirements that include safer chemicals and processes. The people of West, Texas deserve better than the voluntary half-measures in today's report. They, and millions of Americans like them, deserve real safeguards from the threat of chemical disasters that are adopted as enforceable requirements – not just voluntary recommendations that the industry can ignore until the next disaster. The true test of President Obama's call to action will come with the EPA's Request For Information (RFI), due to be issued in the Federal Register in the coming weeks.

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Spring 2014 Unified Agenda: Agencies Expect Lengthy Delays of Critical Safeguards in Year Ahead

On May 23, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quietly published its semi-annual agenda of federal agencies’ regulatory plans for significant actions expected during the upcoming year. Unfortunately, the Spring 2014 Unified Agenda does not send a strong message that the administration expects to finalize many critical safeguards, some pending for years, over the next 12 months.

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West Virginia Mine Deaths Highlight Need for Congressional Action on Mine Safety

Two miners were killed May 12 while working at Brody Mine No. 1 in West Virginia, a coal mine with a history of "significant and substantial" violations, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). While the cause of these two deaths remains under investigation, the incident is just the most recent example of the inadequacy of current mine safety and health programs that are intended to protect miners from on-the-job hazards. To correct these problems and prevent future disasters, MSHA must improve its oversight and enforcement of hazardous mining operations, and Congress must provide the agency the resources it needs to accomplish its important mission.

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Is California Keeping People Safe at Work? Labor Advocates Say No

by Elizabeth Grossman (originally posted on The Pump Handle on May 14, 2014)

In 2012, the most recent year for which US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures are available, 375 people died on the job in California  – an average occupational fatality rate of more than one person every day. At the same time, research by Worksafe and other California labor advocates shows that while California’s workforce has grown by about 22 percent in the last 20 years, the number of safety inspectors for the 17 million people employed in the state’s 1.34 million workplaces has decreased by about 11 percent. 

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New Report Documents Black and Latino Communities at Higher Risk for Chemical Catastrophe

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014—The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), a national coalition of grassroots groups working on toxic chemical exposures that impact communities of color, released a new report today in collaboration with the Center for Effective Government and Coming Clean. The report – Who's in Danger? A Demographic Analysis of Chemical Disaster Vulnerability Zones – uses data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Census to demonstrate an association between lower average housing values, incomes, and education levels, higher rates of poverty, and that many Black, Latino, and low-income populations are living within chemical disaster "vulnerability zones" of 3,433 industrial facilities across the U.S. The risk of danger is much greater for Black & Latino communities than for the U.S. as a whole – the very definition of an unequal or disproportionate danger.

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In Remembrance: Workers Memorial Day 2014

April 28 is Worker’s Memorial Day, an international day for remembering workers who have been injured or killed as a result of on-the-job incidents or long-term occupational illnesses. On this day, we also celebrate the substantial progress made in protecting workers over the forty-plus years since the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was enacted and remember how critical it is to continue the important work of ensuring our workers' health and safety. 

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