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Biden appoints Jennette Galanis as acting head of MSHA

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Washington — President Joe Biden on Feb. 1 named Jeannette Galanis acting assistant labor secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is awaiting the president’s nomination for a permanent leader.

A one-time chief of staff at MSHA under former President Barack Obama, Galanis previously owned and operated a consulting firm whose clients included the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Galanis also has served as national deputy field director of the AFL-CIO, coordinating political and organizational matters in the eastern and southern United States.

Another labor union applauded the move. In a statement to Safety+Health, a United Steelworkers spokesperson said: “The USW welcomes Jeannette Galanis’s leadership and experience as she begins her work of making MSHA an agency that once again protects workers and their health. Galanis understands that U.S. mine workers are still too often getting sick and dying while they wait for more stringent silica standards, and she knows that it’s past time to start using new and creative solutions to rebuild MSHA’s enforcement efforts. We are confident that as she tackles these pressing problems, workers will reap real and lasting improvements to their health and safety.”

David Zatezalo served as assistant labor secretary for MSHA under former President Donald Trump, beginning his tenure after the Senate confirmed his nomination Nov. 15, 2017.

Speaking Jan. 25 during a video interview with Pit & Quarry magazine, Bill Doran, an employment law analyst whose expertise includes MSHA investigations, said he foresees little carryover from the Trump administration to the Biden administration as it pertains to the MSHA administrator’s approach.

 

“The rulemaking process under Dave Zatezalo pretty much came to a halt, and that was basically because of the direction that was received from the White House on that issue,” Doran said. “And that wasn’t just MSHA; that was for every agency out there in terms of this focus on trying to reduce regulations and limit the number of new regulations that were coming out.”

On Jan.13, MSHA announced that 29 miners suffered fatal occupational injuries in 2020, the sixth consecutive year the annual total has remained below 30. Additionally, the agency noted that the five reported deaths among coal miners in 2020 marked “a historic low.”

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