Solis: I really wish I had been able to pass those spectacularly obtrusive farm-labor regulations, darn it

posted at 8:14 pm on January 28, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Via the WFB, there is so much wrong with the bureaucratic attitude perfectly encapsulated by just this short clip, I hardly even know where to begin.

MARTIN: What – some of the things that jumped out that you said, “Man! I have four years, but I still wish I had more time to do,” that was really important to you.

SOLIS: I’ll tell you one of the things that has been an obstacle is trying to get our regulations through, and a lot of it has to do with the lobbying groups, or the folks that are opposed to some of the reforms that we wanted to see happen to protect children in farm labor – which, to me, makes so much sense; trying to protect workers in hazardous conditions, really trying to go after those bad employers that really put people in harm’s way and don’t care about – they game the system. They don’t care about making reforms or making it safe for their people to not get injured or be killed. I mean [the] construction industry, coalmine industry.

There’re a lot of areas that we want to work with people, but please don’t just come out thinking that all we want to do is destroy the economy because we’re asking for enforcement. These are the laws. Nobody came here to create new laws, necessarily. We want to implement the laws that are currently on the book and refine them, and you do it through regulation.

Firstly, the reforms that “happen to protect children in farm labor” to which Solis is referring? Of course folks were violently opposed to those proposals, seeing as how they would have completely upended the economies of rural communities and family farms and deprived many young people of valuable skill-building after-school employment opportunities. Paul Schwennesen thoroughly broke down this outrageous overstep at the time it was first pushed:

According to the proposed rules, it’s okay to hire the 15-year-old neighbor kid as long as he doesn’t:-Work on a roof, scaffold, or anything more than 6 feet high

-Operate any power driven machine (unless he’s enrolled in a state-sanctioned vocational education class and has proper certifications and has passed documented and filed written exams)

-Drive my tractor

-Hook my tractor up to any implement

-Ride as a passenger in my tractor (unless equipped with seatbelt and separate passenger seat)

-Work in my corral with any un-castrated male livestock older than six months

-Cut down trees (of any diameter)

-Attend a livestock auction

-Move meat in and out of our freezers …

Maybe I’m cranky, but that pretty well puts him out of commission as far as my business is concerned. …

Folks, this is absurdly, radically out of control. Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln coming of age under the paternalist aegis of the Department of Labor? Do we think for one moment that NIOSH standards allow for rail-splitting? George Washington might have felled a cherry tree, but his employer would have paid handsomely for the infraction under the Fair Labor and Standards Act. The young Thomas Jefferson would have been kept safely out of harm’s way under Hazardous Operation 13, which precludes anyone under sixteen from “planting, cultivating, topping, harvesting, baling, barning, and curing of tobacco.”

Secondly, what is Secretary Solis implying about the farming industry, and physical-labor based jobs in general? That it’s full of “bad employers” who are actively apathetic about putting people’s in harm’s unadulterated way and don’t care about people being killed? What is this, communist China? We do indeed already have laws on the books about that, and a fully functioning (some might say, overly functioning) judicial system in which people can air and address their grievances.

Thirdly, “nobody wants to create new laws,” just further refine their enforcement through regulation? Quite the creative take on boundless bureaucratic authority you’ve got there.

The number of Americans not participating in the labor force has increased by over 8 million people since the start of the Obama presidency, and the Obama administration has been rolling out new-and-improved regulations at an impressively zealous rate — and Secretary Solis is suggesting that people putting up a fight against still more oh-so-magnanimous, top-down regulations has been a major problem?

Secretary Solis is on her way out of the Labor Department for Obama’s second term — but I think that waiting to see who the president picks as her replacement might make me even more nervous than the alternative.


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