Bush Set to Repeal Clinton's Ergonomics Rule
Democrats also said that the resolution essentially would prevent OSHA from ever adopting an ergonomics rule because the Department of Labor would now have to seek the approval of Congress to pass any such rule.
The repeal resolution was introduced in the Senate using a little known and never-used congressional power called the Congressional Review Act. Under that act, Congress is empowered to review and reject by vote any administration rule that would cost more than $100 million to implement.
But in a letter to Jeffords, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao assured him that she would continue to address this problem.
"Let me assure you that in the event a Joint Resolution of Disapproval becomes law, I intend to pursue a comprehensive approach to ergonomics, which may include new rule making," she wrote. "Repetitive stress injuries in the workplace are an important problem."
Business leaders also tell WebMD that they would support a watered-down version of OSHA's current ergonomics rule.
"No business would purposely harm their employees," Peter Eide, director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tells WebMD.
Eide says that businesses would like to see Chao pursue a new rule as long as she based it in part upon a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, which called for additional studies.
"The fact that they [OSHA] spent 10 years doing it doesn't mean that it's a good rule," Edie says.
Now that the House has passed the resolution, President George W. Bush is all set to finalize the repeal, a move he reportedly supports.
But labor unions have been mounting an aggressive effort to turn the tide.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told The Associated Press that the Senate vote was "a naked payoff to big business contributors who have opposed every effort to enact a standard protecting workers."
Since early March, the AFL-CIO has sponsored a number of news conferences to highlight that the rule would not only affect business workers but also people such as Diane Moriarity, a secretary for the New York City Board of Education.
Moriarity, 60, suffers from several crushed disks in her back, frozen shoulders, and pain in her hands. She says the injury occurred because the computer provided to her by the BOE was bolted down to a desk, forcing her to use the keyboard in her lap and turn her head to face the computer monitor.
Moriarity still works for the BOE, but says that she would have quit if the school where she works didn't finally agree to buy her a new chair and workstation at the urging of her union, the United Federation of Teachers.
"I wanted to work. I love my job," Moriarity tells WebMD. "The sad thing is that the BOE is now doing the same thing to other people."