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Home > News > Business > Opinion: Lowden makes a mockery of Occupational Safety and Health Week

Opinion: Lowden makes a mockery of Occupational Safety and Health Week

By ThisIsReno

SUBMITTED RELEASE FROM FRIENDS FOR HARRY REID

LAS VEGAS–Once again, Sen. Harry Reid continues to deliver for working Nevadans by ensuring workplace safety with the announcement of a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Las Vegas. Today’s announcement comes as we mark Occupational Safety and Health Week, a time when we recognize the tens of thousands of responsible business owners throughout Nevada who have taken basic steps to ensure the safety and health of their employees.

Given the amount of attention OSHA is likely to receive this week, one Nevada businesswoman will likely try to fly under the radar, hoping she is not called out again for her abysmal business “safety” record that includes a remarkable 221 citations from OSHA.

That businesswoman is casino boss Sue Lowden, whose casinos received violations for everything from failure to use explosion-proof wiring where flammable vapors were sprayed to withholding medical evaluations for her employees following a “bloodborne pathogen exposure incident.”

In fact, it got so bad that Robert Miller, one of Lowden’s former employees at the Santa Fe Hotel, testified before the Nevada Senate Commerce and Labor Committee regarding unsafe working conditions. He showed pictures of wet, greasy, debris-strewn floors and made the case that the company could prevent injuries and actually save money by enforcing basic workplace safety.

However, instead of doing the right thing by addressing these dangerous working conditions, Lowden had Miller fired three days later and tried to use her position as a state senator to reduce her casino’s worker compensation costs by limiting payments to Nevadans injured on the job.

As a member of the senate Commerce and Labor Committee, Lowden voted for draconian cuts to disabled worker compensation, trying to limit permanent partial disability awards to workers hurt on the job with a 15 percent disability or more and to slash the formula by which those awards were calculated.

“Sue Lowden’s OSHA record is another perfect example of Lowden making herself rich on the backs of struggling Nevadans,” said Reid campaign communications director Kelly Steele. “Why make your workplace safer for employees when you can simply use your elected office to shield your company from having to pay when one of your workers steps on a rusty nail? As a candidate for public office, Lowden owes her workers an apology and Nevadans an explanation for her miserable record of putting her bottom line above their basic safety.”

Background

When a worker testified about unsafe working conditions, he was fired three days later

Santa Fe worker Robert Miller testified before Lowden’s Senate Committee on Unsafe Working Conditions. During a hearing involving Nevada’s workers compensation system, a cook at the Santa Fe Hotel named Robert Miller came before the Senate Commerce and Labor committee, which included Sue Lowden, to testify that savings could be achieved by doing more to enforce workplace safety. Miller showed the committee several pictures of wet, greasy, debris-strewn floors in various locations. According to the committee minutes: “He explained his experience with safety conditions and inspectors when he worked in a coal mine. He suggested that the state impose high enough fines so that companies would take safety seriously and would not make unsafe environments cost effective for the companies.” [Nevada Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Minutes, 2/11/1993]

Despite meeting with management, conditions remained dangerous. Miller slipped and fell “on numerous occasions.”
During a hearing involving Nevada’s workers compensation system, Santa Fe employee Robert Miller testified before the Senate Commerce and Labor committee. According to the minutes “Mr. Miller replied that he had first personally met with management and was told it would be resolved. Then he and his co-workers met with management to resolve the problem. He said that outside of a couple of days of some cleaning, maintenance on the floor, and picking up the trash, nothing was really done and he does not think the problem has been addressed.” Miller also told the committee “though he wears the proper footwear, he has slipped on the floor on numerous occasions.” [Nevada Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Minutes, 2/11/1993]

Robert Miller was fired from the Santa Fe three days after testifying before Lowden’s committee. A week after Robert Miller testified about unsafe working conditions at the Santa Fe, the Nevada Appeal reported that Miller had been fired from his job. “Robert Miller said he was fired Monday, three days after testifying before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee about the conditions in a kitchen at the Santa Fe hotel-casino.” [Nevada Appeal, 2/17/1993]

Lowden supported cuts to disabled workers

Sue Lowden supported cuts to disabled workers’ compensation. During the debate on overhauling the state’s workers’ compensation system, Sue Lowden supported a motion to limit PPD awards to injured workers with a 15 percent disability or more. Lowden also supported a motion to slash the formula for calculating PPD awards despite a comment from Senator Shaffer saying “I cannot take any more money away from the injured worker. I just can’t see it. We’re beating him to death now.” [NV Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Minutes, 3/10/1993]

Lowden said paying partially disabled workers too much could be “detrimental” for the Nevada economy. According to Senate Commerce and Labor Committee minutes during an April 1995 meeting discussing workers’ compensation, Lowden commented on PPD compensation. “Senator Lowden observed from an economic development point of view, one of the first items investigated by potential industries are PPD awards, in order to decide if Nevada has a good climate for business. She went on to state she feels PPD awards are so high it could have a detrimental effect to economic development.” [NV Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Minutes, 4/27/1995]

Lowden’s casinos cited for numerous OSHA violations

Sue Lowden’s casinos have been cited for 221 workplace safety violations. During the years when Lowden played a role in the management of the Sahara, Hacienda, Santa Fe and Pioneer hotels and casinos, her companies were cited by OSHA at least 221 times, including 52 violations classified as “serious” and four repeat violations. [OSHA Inspection Records: Hacienda Hotel and Casino, 1988-1995, Sahara Hotel and Casino, 1988-1995, Santa Fe Hotel and Casino, 1991-2000, and Pioneer Hotel and Casino, 1989-2010]

Sue Lowden’s casinos have been fined 35 times for workplace safety violations. During the years when Sue Lowden played a role in the management of the Sahara, Hacienda, Santa Fe and Pioneer hotels and casinos, her companies were fined at least 35 times, including one fine for $12,400 for a repeated violation. [OSHA Inspection Records: Hacienda Hotel and Casino, 1988-1995, Sahara Hotel and Casino, 1988-1995, Santa Fe Hotel and Casino, 1991-2000, and Pioneer Hotel and Casino, 1989-2010]

February 2001: Pioneer Hotel was fined for improper wiring near flammable vapors. The Pioneer Hotel was fined $1,680 after an inspection arising from a complaint found that it had violated a requirement that explosion-proof wiring must be used in areas where dangerous quantities of flammable vapors are sprayed. [OSHA Inspection Record, Citations Issued 2/2/2001, OSHA Regulation Definitions–Spray Finishing Using Flammable And Combustible Materials]

June 1995: Hacienda Hotel was fined for repeatedly failing to keep workplace floors free of nails, splinters, holes and loose boards. The Hacienda agreed to pay a $12,400 fine for repeatedly violating the requirement that “To facilitate cleaning, every floor, working place, and passageway shall be kept free from protruding nails, splinters, holes, or loose boards.” [OSHA Citation Record 6/13/95; OSHA Regulation Definitions–General Practices]

June 1994: Sahara Hotel was fined for failing to provide medical follow-up to bloodborne pathogen exposure. The Sahara was fined $4,500 after an inspection arising from a complaint found that they had violated, among others, the requirements that employers must provide medical evaluations and procedures including hepatitis B vaccination at no cost to the employee following a report of a bloodborne pathogen exposure incident. [OSHA Inspection Record, Citations Issued 6/21/94, OSHA Regulation Definitions–Blood-Borne Pathogens]

August 1993: Santa Fe Hotel was fined for failing to maintain a clean workplace. The Santa Fe Hotel was fined $2,500 after an inspection arising from a complaint found that it had violated a requirement that states, “All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.” [OSHA Inspection Record, Citations Issued 8/20/1993, OSHA Regulation Definitions-–General Requirements]

April 1992: Santa Fe was fined for failing to label hazardous chemicals. The Santa Fe Hotel was fined after an inspection arising from a complaint found that it had violated a requirement that all containers of hazardous chemicals must be properly labeled. [OSHA Inspection Record, Citations Issued 4/17/1992, OSHA Regulation Definitions-–Hazard Communication]

Sue Lowden cut almost ¼ of her workforce and ended employee 401(k) matching while her husband brought home a $200,000 bonus

Las Vegas Sun: “SEC Filing: Sue Lowden Cut Jobs, Got Bonus.” “Republican Sue Lowden’s company gave her husband a $200,000 bonus last year—bringing the couple’s combined paycheck to nearly $1 million—even as it slashed more than 100 jobs and eliminated the employee savings match, according to an annual report.” [Las Vegas Sun, 2/24/2010]

CQ Politics: “Reid Presses Attacks on Lowden’s Jobs Record.” Last week, Reid aides pounced on Archon’s annual financial report that showed the company reduced its employee rolls by nearly a quarter compared with 2008, while Paul Lowden received a $200,000 bonus. Monday, Reid’s campaign publicized records that showed a casino owned by an Archon subsidiary shut its doors in 2004, leaving 50-plus workers out of jobs. Paul Lowden also received a $200,000 bonus that year. [CQ Politics, 3/1/2010]

Lowden illegally denied her employees health insurance

Las Vegas Review-Journal: “When Sue Lowden Headed The Santa Fe Hotel-Casino, Management Forced A Group Of Workers To Shift To Part-Time Status And Sign Away Their Health Care Coverage.” In March 2010, the Review-Journal wrote, “When Sue Lowden headed the Santa Fe hotel-casino, management forced a group of workers to shift to part-time status and sign away their health care coverage, said a judge who ruled the company violated fair labor practices. He ordered the Santa Fe to pay two dozen employees almost $188,000 in back wages and benefits and to reinstate three workers who lost their jobs, records show. … The complex legal battles between the union and Santa Fe management came after workers from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 1993, voted 300-241 for unionization in a labor board-supervised election, according to published reports. The Lowdens refused to recognize the results and dealt directly with workers in reducing hours and benefits instead of bargaining with union representatives. … After the judge’s ruling, the Santa Fe was ordered to post a three-page notice to employees in the hotel-casino, admitting to the labor violations and promising not to repeat them.” [Review-Journal, 3/7/2010]

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