Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jordan Barab

By now most of us have seen the e-mail from Don Shalhoub announcing Jordan Barab as the Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS), but here's the text of Don's e-mail:
"We are pleased to announce that Secretary Solis has selected Jordan Barab to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA and Acting Assistant Secretary, effective Monday, April 13. Jordan comes to us from the House Education and Labor Committee where he is the Senior Labor Policy Advisor for Health and Safety to Chairman George Miller. Prior to that, from 2002 through 2007, Jordan worked at the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Many of us will remember Jordan from his first tour with OSHA, where he was Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary from 1998-2001. Please join me in welcoming Jordan to OSHA."
Just to clarify, someone left a comment that Jordan is the new OSHA Chief, but that is not correct, the head of the agency is the Assistant Secretary (yet to be named), Jordan will be the Deputy Assistant Secretary. The agency has two DASs, one career (currently Don Shalhoub) and one political (as of next week, Jordan Barab), neither of which have to go through confirmation.

I know people are excited by the selection, as am I, but I'm also afraid that idealism is about to run head on into the reality that is a government enforcement agency. I'm not trying to be a naysayer and I certainly don't question his qualifications or doubt his commitment, but I've been around awhile and I've seen people with high ideals come and go, and none of them have had the influence they thought they would.

Does this mean I think he shouldn't try to be an activist? Nope, I hope he remains very much the activist. Does this mean I won't support him? Nope, I'll do what I can within the bounds of my oath (remember the one we all swore to protect the Constitution?). Do I think things will be better than under the previous regime? Abso-freakin'-lutely.

However, I also think we need to temper our expectations a little. Until Congress makes changes to our rulemaking process, until we have adequate staff levels, and until Congress and the White House decide the human lives are more important than profit, we're not going to see a dramatic shift in what we do or the way we do it. Mores the pity.


  1. Doesn't an appointed acting usually become the OSHA head? I know Snare did not, but he seemed the exception.

  2. It could mean one of two things:

    1) They intend to nominate Barab for the A/S but needs to be further vetted (ie: is he yet another tax dodger, etc) so in the mean time he'll be Acting. Or...

    2) They intend to nominate someone else (ie: John Howard?) but they want to put someone in there now as acting and Barab will do.

    I disagree with some of the comments in the post. Primarily, I am not confident that Barab will do well at all. Remember, it is a very different thing to be an "activist/critic" than it is to actually "manage/lead/etc". He'll learn that pretty quickly.

    Solis and Miller can only give him so much cover. But like anything else, there will be a honeymoon period (for the enforcement zealots) but even that will fade over time.

    You think OSHA's name is mud now... just wait.

  3. Don't forget, while you are bashing the profits made by those evil, disgusting, greedy capitalists that it is the taxes paid on those profits that allow you to do what you do.

  4. Shocking - someone who actually understands the issues and also from organized labor - to help lead OSHA - from the unions which fought to create the agency and defend it from employer attacks over the past decades.

  5. What does a political deputy do? Make sure the OSHA head speaks the party line?