Friday, September 3, 2010

Legislative Audit -Department of Commerce Health and Safety Enforcement for Public Sector workers

Last week AFSCME Council 24 received confirmation on our request to have the Legislative Audit Committee look at how the Department of Commerce enforces Safety Standards and whether there are political implications in their process.

This audit is possible because of the men and women at UW Stout who have had exposures and have been met with denial on the part of the U.W.Systems. In fact we even have copies of letters inferring the Chancellor’s intrusion into the enforcement process. We had a discussion with Senator Kathleen Vinehout about the issue and she was instrumental in carrying the day for us.

I have cut and pasted the information about this that appeared in last week’s summary. It makes good material for letter writing and other communications.This audit and participation in it is critical. This is our OSHA. We have no other health and safety protections aside from those enforced by Commerce. We need each of our locals to take a look at any experiences that they have had with Commerce and the enforcement of these standards or lack of enforcement. This is a rare opportunity to make things right. Please contact your Field Representative with any information. If you happen to encounter either Senator Vinehout or Representative Barca please thank them for being there for us.

Marty Beil, Executive Director
AFSCME Council 24
Auditors to Investigate State’s Record of Ensuring Health and Safety Standards for Public Sector Workers

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) announced last week that they have directed the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau to review the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s record of ensuring (more) the safety of public sector employees while they are on the job. Vinehout and Barca serve as co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and have powers to order audits of state agency practices and law enforcement efforts.

The legislators asked the Legislative Audit Bureau to:
+ assess the scope of the Department’s responsibility for ensuring public sector employee safety in the workplace;
+ review staffing and expenditures;
+ analyze the number of inspections conducted and consultative services provided annually; and
+ determine the volume and disposition of any formal complaints received by the Department of Commerce.

The audit review was prompted by a situation in which union officers complained about shoddy conditions involving asbestos removal projects on the UW-Stout campus. The complaint resulted in a Department of Commerce report citing the university for 51 occupational safety and health violations. The university pushed the Department to rescind the report, which the agency did on Nov. 5, 2009.

AFSCME Council 24 strongly protested the Department’s decision, and contacted Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Barca to have the Legislative Audit Bureau investigate and report on the Department of Commerce’s record of enforcing public sector worker health and safety. This is a big victory for all public sector workers. AFSCME appreciates the leadership shown by Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Barca and looks forward to reviewing the findings of the Audit Bureau.