TALLAHASSEE, FL – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newest battle with the Biden administration involves dropping Florida out of the nation’s workplace-safety agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In the governor’s official call for a special session, he wants “the State to evaluate whether it should assert jurisdiction over occupational safety and health issues for government and private employees.” In other words, lawmakers will discuss whether the state should create its own agency to replace OSHA.
Theresa King, president of the Florida Building and Construction Trade Council, said federal protections are life-saving for her industry and should not be tampered with to win political points.
“It would totally disrupt the safety mechanisms that are in place, that are known, that we have in the construction industry and with the clients that we work for when we go onto their property to work,” King asserted.
The controversy is an offshoot of Biden’s call for OSHA to require employers with 100 or more workers to implement a COVID-19 vaccine-or-weekly-testing mandate, but the proposal is still under review by the White House. Florida’s special session is scheduled for Nov. 15-19.
According to OSHA, there are currently 22 State Plans covering both private-sector and state and local government workers.
Dr. Rich Templin, director of politics and public policy for the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 1.3 million workers in the state, said Florida’s history of eliminating its own Department of Labor 20 years ago already reduced protections for public-sector workers.
“For the same state government to now say they want to pull everybody else in Florida out of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that’s terrifying because they’ve already shown that they have no interest and no commitment to put something in its place,” Templin argued.
Templin stressed such a massive change should require all stakeholders to have a say in the process.
Republican leaders contend Florida having its own agency could limit what they see as federal-government overreach. However, any state worker safety plan must still get OSHA approval, a process that could take years beyond the current political fight.