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June 16, 2004 9:00 AM CDT

Protecting Workers and Their Jobs

By

Creating a climate that allows businesses to grow and produce jobs is the focal point of discussion on how to improve the economy. But this hasn't always been the case.

In the 1990s, the federal government developed onerous ergonomics regulations, dictating standards for injuries related to repetitive motion jobs to all employers, both large and small, in nearly every industry. These mandates are a threat to jobs, especially for small businesses that already struggle under the weight of complex government regulations.

But before the federal government finalized its ergonomics rule in 2000, Washington state went forward with its own burdensome rule, mandating that all employers, regardless of their size or type, comply with a series of complex, poorly defined regulations.

This gave Washington the unfortunate distinction of having the most costly, extensive and restrictive ergonomics regulations in the United States. Experts estimate the rule would cost Washington businesses approximately $725 million for the first year of compliance alone. On top of compliance costs, small businesses would likely face higher legal bills, too, in order to defend themselves from claims arising from the far-reaching, but vague, regulations. And for the tremendous burden it would place on small businesses, there was no evidence or assurance that these rigid regulations would be effective at preventing workplace injuries.

Businesses across our state, of all sizes and types, and many workers, almost universally decried the rule as an anti-competitive job-killer. And during that time, businesses were locating elsewhere and Washington's unemployment rate was increasing. In spite of this, and even after the federal rule was overturned, some leaders in our state continued to staunchly support this questionably effective measure that would make Washington less competitive and cost jobs. Finally, in November 2003, an organized coalition of workers and businesses took their case directly to the voters. After the coalition educated voters about this costly job-killing measure, the voters soundly rejected this ineffective way to improve workplace safety. Voters sent a message that we must find common-sense ways to protect workers and their jobs, and not overburden small businesses that are trying to succeed and create new jobs.

It is in the employer's best interest to provide a safe workplace. I support providing incentives and technical assistance to employers to enhance worker safety, rather than subjecting them to rigid regulations that are difficult, if not impossible, for employers to meet. I know that employers want employees at work, not off the job filing worker's compensation claims. To enhance worker safety, we should build on employer initiatives that already exist, not mandate employer compliance with vague, complex and costly regulations.

Like Washington's Governor, Senator Patty Murray has a record of supporting costly and ineffective measures that hurt job creation. She voted twice to keep the job-killing federal ergonomics rule in place. Rather than providing real leadership and fighting to make the state and national economy stronger, Senator Murray opted to support big government regulation of small businesses.

I am running for the Senate to continue my record of supporting common-sense policies that enable job creation and reduce red tape for small businesses. Instead of subjecting businesses to new and excessive regulation, we should be finding ways to retain and recruit businesses that will create good jobs. The recently repealed ergonomics rule in Washington state shows the need to find common-sense ways to protect workers and their jobs. The citizens and business community of our state want a leader who will restore competitiveness, job growth and prosperity to Washington state. I am running for the Senate to do just that.


About the Author

U.S. Representative George R. Nethercutt, Jr., made history in 1994 with his election victory over then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley, the first defeat of a sitting Speaker since 1860. Washington state's Nethercutt has actively used his seat in Congress to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Nethercutt served on the prestigious House Committee on Appropriations, assigned to the Agriculture, Interior and Defense Subcommittees.

 

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