Republicans Funded By Roofing Industry Oppose Roofing Regulations

Mike Elk

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) at a Republican news conference on job creation in June 2011.

Despite not being a member of the subcommittee holding hearings on workplace safety proposal, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R‑Wis.) felt it was necessary to show up to the hearing of the Workforce Protection Subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee and to criticize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for its role in pushing new workplace safety regulations.

It is unusual that Ribble would show up to ask tough question at a hearing on a subcommittee that he was not a member of, but when you consider Ribble’s deep financial ties to the roofing industry and past history of OSHA violations, it is not so surprising that the Congressman would show up.

Ribble said that the cost of a new roofing regulation would hurt the housing market even more: As the price goes up, and it has to go up, that family now can’t afford it. So demand goes down as rules and regulations are piled on.”

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003 and 2010, 176 roofers died on the job. Until December 2010, roofing residential contractors were exempt from rules that regulated safety protections about preventing falls in construction. Last December, OSHA issued a rule change that imposed new safety standards and required roofers working in residential roofing to use safety harnesses.

This ruling change has upset some like Rep. Ribble who have a direct financial interest in the roofing industry. Congressional financial disclosure documents show that in 2010 Ribble received more than $50,000 (PDF) in interest payments as a result of the sale of a roofing company he previously owned. In addition, last year Ribble received $17,000 (PDF) in salary from the roofing group. Ribble also served as the previous President of the National Roofing Contractor Association from 2005 – 2006. The National Roofing Contractor Association contributed $10,000 in to Ribble’s campaign for Congress.

It should also be noted that Ribble had a very personal interest in deregulating OSHA’s ability to regulate roofing safety rules. Ribble’s company, Security Luebke Roofing – a division of the Ribble Group – was cited by OSHA on two separate occasions in 2008 and 2009 for safety violations regarding failing to prevent falls of roofers working on commercial properties.

Now Rep. Ribble and other Republicans are working to make sure that the rules do not get enacted. Last week, House Republicans proposed a labor and education budget that included several riders to roll back OSHA safety regulations including the roofing regulations. Public Safety advocates said that Ribble’s focused advocacy against the roofing regulation could lead to a rider repealing the regulation to be included in a final compromise labor and education budget bill.

With the House GOP trying to stop OSHA from issuing lifesaving regulations, we need to have an objective conversation about keeping workers safe,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen. Rep. Ribble has a clear conflict of interest on this particular issue. Where he should have recused himself he instead inserted himself.”

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Mike Elk wrote for In These Times and its labor blog, Working In These Times, from 2010 to 2014. He is currently a labor reporter at Politico.
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