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Where’s the ‘rumble’?

August 21, 2013

If the worker and consumer protection proposals signed into law decades ago were proposed today, would they pass? Ralph Nader doesn’t think so.

In a recent interview with the Canadian newspaper Metro, the longtime political activist suggested the victories 40 years ago wouldn’t happen now because the Obama White House isn’t as receptive as when Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were in office.

“Nixon feared the rumble from the people so he signed OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), product safety (legislation). He proposed a minimum incomes plan. He had a health insurance plan better than Obama’s, but it didn’t get through. He proposed drug rehabilitation rather than incarceration – all because he feared the rumble. If there’s no rumble there’s no action.”

– Ralph Nader

To a point, I agree with Nader. Despite numerous deadly industrial incidents, there has not been a loud outcry from the public at large for changes to address a variety of known hazards.

I wonder why that is. Perhaps it’s because the low-hanging fruit is all gone – many of the basic protections needed to safeguard workers are already implemented into law. The hazards left – while certainly dangerous and deserving of our attention – may be too specific to a single group to rally the public as a whole and put pressure on politicians and regulators.

What are your thoughts? Is Nader right, and if so, why do you think there is no “rumble”? Let me know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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