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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Labor secretary inaccurately cites his department's data in hearing -- By Sean Higgins, The Washington Examiner

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03:  Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speaks during a stop of the 'Give America a Raise' bus tour at the U.S. Capitol Building on April 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)Labor Secretary Thomas Perez incorrectly cited data from his own department in a congressional hearing Wednesday to justify heightened safety inspections of auto parts manufacturers in the South, particularly Alabama. The actual data indicates that the state's manufactures maintain a lower injury rate than the national average, not a higher one as Perez has insisted.

After inquiries from the Washington Examiner, Labor Department officials continued to insist that Alabama had a higher injury rate despite the fact that this was contradicted by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is one of the department's own agencies.

On Jan. 15, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a “regional emphasis program” for the auto parts manufacturing industry in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. In other words, they would face extra scrutiny from OSHA. It became the subject of a contentious exchange between Perez and Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., during a Wednesday committee hearing.

Roby has contended that the inspections are part of a broader plan to assist Big Labor's efforts to organize southern auto plants. She has cited as evidence a letter last year from OSHA to the Service Employees International Union stating that it would allow union officials to accompany its officials during their inspections under certain circumstances.

During an House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Roby asked why the region’s auto parts manufacturers have been singled out for inspections since their accident rate was below the national average.

Perez said her data was wrong, and that "Alabama in particular" had a problem. He stated the national rate for occupational injuries in auto parts manufacturing was 3 cases per 100 workers, and that Alabama’s rate was "50 percent" above that – or about 4.5.

He stated: "The reason we added this regional emphasis program is because when we see data and we have experiences showing that there is a problem, then we put that emphasis in the areas where there is a problem."

A look at the at BLS's 2012 data on occupational injuries for auto parts manufacturers does not support Perez's testimony. The national rate is actually 5.3 per 100 workers, not the 3.0 he claimed. The rate was 4.8 for Alabama and 3.7 for Georgia, placing both below the national average.

An official at BLS confirmed this, adding that the 2012 data is the most recent available. The caveat here is that the Alabama and Georgia rates are for transportation equipment manufacturing, which combines cars with boats, planes and other vehicles. The bureau does not break the data down any further. The data for Mississippi was not available. The state does not report its information to BLS.

It is unlikely that Perez was speaking off-the-cuff in his testimony. Roby had sent him a letter regarding the OSHA matter prior to the hearing and he acknowledged receiving it. He would have therefore known to expect her questions. So why were his numbers off?

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