Acting OSHA chief Thom Stohler

Foulke's Acting Replacement: Thomas M. Stohler

It's certainly possible that the incoming Obama administration will reverse the politicization of the U.S. Labor Department, turning it into an arm of Democratic policy, which most observers probably would consider a mistake. Current Labor Secretary Elaine Chao has been criticized for following the Bush administration's game plan -- harass unions, fund faith-based organizations, and avoid new regulations -- but the most telling criticism has been that she filled DOL posts with Republicans who worked for her husband (U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader) and other GOP congressional leaders. Chao didn't appoint them, but the most recent leaders of OSHA and MSHA came from an anti-union law firm and the coal industry. Now that Edwin Foulke Jr. has left the top job at OSHA to work in Atlanta for another law firm, an acting assistant secretary has been named: Thomas M. Stohler, who, among other things, previously worked as legislative director for U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the Republicans' House leader and also a former chairman of the House education and labor committee.

OSHA posted the announcement on its Web site and said it was effective Monday, which was Foulke's first day of work at law firm Fisher & Phillips.

Previous acting OSHA chiefs have been longtime OSHA hands. Stohler has worked for OSHA only since May 2008 as a deputy assistant secretary; the bio says he worked with Foulke and the senior leadership of the Department of Labor to develop and implement "the policy goals and objectives of the Administration. He also oversaw the regulatory, compliance assistance, OSHA state plan oversight, emergency response, training, administrative, and IT functions" at OSHA. Prior to that, Stohler was a senior legislative officer for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at DOL, meaning he was the principal House and Senate liaison for OSHA and MSHA. Stohler has also worked for several members of Congress, most recently as legislative director for Boehner, the bio says.

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