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Dept. of Labor is not announcing worker safety violations

The New York Times reports that the Department of Labor has not publicized a single worker safety corporate fine since the inauguration of the President.

In a sharp break with the past, the department has stopped publicizing fines against companies. As of Monday, seven weeks after the inauguration of President Trump, the department had yet to post a single news release about an enforcement fine.

During the Obama administration, the announcements of fines were used as a major tool for workplace safety enforcement, "essentially publicly shaming companies" that violated worker safety rules. It issued an average of about 460 news releases annually about fines and other enforcement actions.

The Times quotes a spokeswoman for the Labor Department as declining to comment when asked why OSHA had not issued any such releases, but saying that the agency’s enforcement efforts were unchanged.

A google search for site:osha.gov “Citation and Notification of Penalty ” 2017 discovered only one citation issued after Jan 20, 2017.

The DOL page for News Releases for OSHA shows that the last press release for a fine or penalty was on jan 17 and that page bears a banner that says "Please note: As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies."

Four new press releases are listed on that page. One urges workers to "safeguard themselves," two announce partnerships to enhance workplace safety, and one announces a proposed delay in the effective date of a rule designed to protect workers from lung cancer.

To Help Consumers, DOL Removes Consumer Information

The Department of Labor (DOL) has deleted a blog post and a consumer FAQ that explained the benefits of a rule that requires financial advisers act in the best interest of their clients. Both the blog post and the FAQ explained the benefits of the “Conflict of Interest Rule.”

The Conflict of Interest Rule became effective in June of 2016 and was set “become applicable” on April 10, 2017. In February, however, President Trump directed the DOL to re-examine the rule because it “may not be consistent with the policies of my Administration.” In response, the DOL issued a notice of its intention to delay the applicability of the rule for 60 days. Comments on the delay are due on or before April 17, 2017. Investment News also reported earlier that the agency will need more than 60 days to conduct its assessment of regulation.

The President’s statement says that these actions are meant to “empower Americans to make their own financial decisions” and the Department’s notice says that it will examine if the rule will “adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.”

Blog posts scrubbed from U.S. Department of Labor Blog. Why?!

Here’s an oddity. On the Department of Labor’s blog, there was a post on september 6, 2016 titled “What is the ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate?” that described the “huge array of measures, which together provide a comprehensive picture of the state of job opportunities” in the US. As you’ll see if you click on that link, the post is now “404 page not found.” You’ll not find the post in the blog’s archive for September 2016 either. However, the post was archived by the Internet Archive on October 17, 2016, the last time that IA crawled the blog. So sometime between October, 2016 and today (February 16, 2017) that post was scrubbed from the Department of Labor’s blog.

What’s more strange is that the archived site showed 26 posts in September, 2016, but the live site’s blog’s archive for September 2016 shows only 10 posts. Unfortunately, IA didn’t crawl the monthly archive urls, so there’s no way to know what those missing 10 posts were about. There are also discrepancies for other months (eg, the archived site shows 30 posts in August 2016, while the live site shows 17 posts!).

There’s nothing that I can discern in this one found post that could be considered controversial. It’s not a CRS Report that found no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, thereby destroying a key tenet of conservative economic theory that was subsequently suppressed in 2012. It was written by Dr. Heidi Stierholz, the department’s chief economist.

So what gives? Why is the Department of Labor disappearing selective blog posts? We’ll let you know if we find out.

Labor Does More With Less: 175 datasets, 1 API

Labor Does More With Less on Streaming Data, By Joseph Marks, NextGov (June 25, 2013).

When the White House directed agencies to make at least two data services available through a streaming process known as application programming interfaces in 2012, most tech and transparency savvy agencies focused on releasing as many APIs as they could.

The Health and Human Services Department, for example, released 61 APIs connecting to 61 datasets.

The Labor Department took a different tack, releasing 175 datasets through a single API.