No contrast between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is more stark than the dramatically different signals they’ve sent in selecting nominees to head federal safety and labor agencies.
A Wall Street Journal article discusses the backgrounds of some of the selections.
President Obama’s latest choice, Joseph Main to oversee the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), continues a strong trend toward choosing labor over management and increased regulation over the Bush administration’s more hands-off approach.
Main was for many years a union official and mine-safety advocate. He began his career working in coal mines.
If approved, he’ll join Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who had a well-documented pro-union background, and temporary OSHA head Jordan Barab, who previously worked for the AFL-CIO and who was fiercely critical of Bush’s labor policies.
In contrast, previous Labor Secretary Elaine Chao worked for Citicorp and BankAmerica and was considered anti-regulation and a staunch ally of business. Previous OSHA head Edwin Foulke Jr. was a management-side labor lawyer.
Main would be the first confirmed head of MSHA since 2004. Richard Stickler, who filled the post under President Bush, was a controversial former Bethlehem Steel executive who was installed as a recess appointment after failing to win approval from the Senate.
Mining-association groups say they expect Main, if approved, to be tough. But, they add, they know him and can work with him.
He may have his work cut out for him. Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy group, says the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission has a backlog of 13,000 mine-safety disputes.
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