Teamsters President James Hoffa is cautioning against reopening businesses across the country too quickly, for fear of endangering workers. Hoffa was one of a dozen leaders from the corporate world, labor and trade associations on a conference call with President Trump to discuss that topic Wednesday.
Hoffa later told NPR that he urged the president to make sure everything is in place for a safe return to the workforce. He said that means getting testing in place so people can get a test easily if they need one, and he said results need to be available much more quickly. He said a worker can't afford to take two weeks off the job to wait for a test result. Hoffa also says job sites need to be fully stocked with everything from masks to disinfectant wipes.
"If somebody's been laid off and they're gonna go back to work," he stressed, "you can't ask them to go back to an unsafe workplace where they're gonna get sick."
Hoffa said of the conference call that Trump "was very courteous." He said there was none of the combativeness we've seen in recent televised media briefings. He said the president dubbed the group that had dialed-in the "Great American Renewal Task Force." Hoffa said the virtual gathering came together quickly, adding that he'd only heard it was happening Tuesday night. He said there were no specific plans laid out for further discussions between the task force and Trump.
As president, Trump has slashed regulations as a way to help businesses boost profits. Hoffa says he used his time on the call to stress that the pandemic will require rigorous new regulations to make sure workers are protected. He said strict rules will need to be written and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Since taking office Trump has done the opposite, limiting OSHA's regulatory power and dramatically reducing the number of workplace inspections. Hoffa says Trump mush reverse that practice. "We need OSHA more than ever. You've gotta put teeth in OSHA."
The Teamster leader added, "that's very reasonable, and yeah, it's gonna cost more money."