Washington Report 032007

Date Published: 
Original Author: 
Robert M. Fells
Original Publication: 
ICCFA Magazine

EPA won't regulate crematories 

by ICCFA General Counsel Robert M. Fells, Esq.
In late January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its "Notice of Final Action on Reconsideration" in which it confirmed a December 2005 decision not to regulate human crematories under the federal Clean Air Act.
As previously reported, at issue was whether crematories should be regulated under the category of "Other Solid Waste Incinerators" (OSWI) in the Clean Air Act regulations. During the rulemaking proceedings, two persons objected to exempting crematories because they claimed that "the incineration of human bodies emits significant quantities of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants." It was also claimed that human bodies were classified as "discarded solid waste" under government regulations.
However, the EPA disagreed with these claims and found that the regulatory definitions of "discarded" and "solid waste" do not apply to nonhazardous substances such as human remains. The agency concluded that "the human body should not be labeled or considered 'solid waste'... and [crematories] are not a subcategory of OSWI for regulation." The EPA did leave the door open to potential future regulation by either the states or &other authorities."
In its most recent ruling, the EPA denied a request to reconsider human crematories in the OSWI rules. The EPA findings were primarily based on the result of stack testing conducted by the Cremation Association of North America and EPA, to which the ICCFA was a financial contributor.

Union bill introduced in House 

by ICCFA General Counsel Robert M. Fells, Esq.
Following up on last issue's "Washington Report" column, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) on February 6. The bill, H.R. 800, is co-sponsored by a whopping 230 House members, more than a majority, making an actual vote on the legislation a mere formality.
The proposal seeks to eliminate the secret ballot vote whereby employees may confidentially indicate whether or not they want a particular union representation. The bill also mandates binding arbitration where a collective bargaining process has not produced a first contract within 90 days, among other things. Ultimately, an arbitrator can impose terms of a labor contract over the objections of both the employer and the union.
Rep. Miller stated that "the current process for forming unions is badly broken and so skewed in favor of those who oppose unions, that workers must literally risk their jobs in order to form a union. ... Sadly, many employers resort to spying, threats, intimidation, harassment and other illegal activity in their campaigns to oppose unions. … Even when employers don't break the law, the process itself stacks the deck against union supporters."
Miller also stated that the bill is "bipartisan, " although support has apparently divided mostly along party lines. The legislation has been referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, where a hearing was scheduled for February 8.
The senior ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (CA), stated that the bill creates a "double standard" whereby employees no longer have the right to vote in private on whether to unionize, but the bill ironically preserves the secret ballot when workers seek to decertify a union. According to McKeon, unions insist on using the "card check" method of indicating workers' support for unionizing while claiming that the secret ballot must be preserved for decertifying a union as "imperative to preserving privacy and independence."
"If a card check is good enough for workers to organize a union in a workplace," McKeon concluded, "it should be good enough to allow them to break ties with that same union if they are not satisfied with the way it's representing them. ... Even though current law allows for unions to organize through either a federally supervised private ballot election or a card check, proponents of the card check bill (H.R. 800) are widely viewed as pushing for intimidation-prone card checks that make a workers' personal vote completely public."
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a business lobbying group organized under the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose H.R. 800, has invited the ICCFA to add its support. Members of the coalition include the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Restaurant Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, among other organizations.
Significant developments will be reported as they occur. Due to the fast-track attention this legislation is receiving, at least in the House, members should check the ICCFA Wireless, the association's biweekly electronic newsletter, for the latest updates.