January 30, 2015
Is Labor Commissioner Berry up to doing her job?
Sad news reported by the News & Observer this month:
The number of workers killed on the job in North Carolina nearly doubled last year compared to the year before, according to preliminary data released by the state Department of Labor on Thursday.
Forty-four people died in work-related accidents last year, up from 23 in 2013. It was the highest number of worker deaths since 2011, when 53 died, according to the Labor Department.
All but one of the workers killed last year were men, and all were classified as “laborers” by the Labor Department. Their average age was nearly 44; the youngest was 20, and the oldest was 82.
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor (and elevators) Cherie Berry suggested lack of worker training before starting jobs – as opposed to unsafe working conditions – were to blame for the deaths.
Cherie Berry has an aversion to holding employers accountable for safety and health violations.
In 2010 federal OSHA regulators faulted the North Carolina Department of Labor under Berry’s leadership for downplaying serious violations:
It was noted that some violations that would most likely have been classified as serious by federal OSHA were classified as non-serious by the state, and some violations categorized as low or medium severity would have been categorized as high severity by federal OSHA.
In 2013 Berry, who leads the state department charged with protecting workers, spoke at a press conference in Apex, NC where she complained that OSHA regulations are too burdensome for businesses. Federal regulators are “too obsessed” with finding OSHA violations, Berry told reporters.
Back in 2008, the Charlotte Observer uncovered a pattern of reducing fines imposed on companies that support her political campaigns.