John O’Connor

Long-term care operators could be forgiven for believing things can’t possibly get much worse.

After all, most are trying to cope with a pandemic that has singled out this sector for extreme punishment. COVID-19 has infected thousands of residents and workers, dramatically cut payments and driven up costs. And, by the way, it’s also causing many more people to rethink whether congregate settings and old age are actually a good mix.

But as Mama used to say: You can’t fall off the floor, unless an earthquake hits. I was reminded of her words of Irish wisdom last week, while taking in Fox News’ Neil Cavuto interview of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

If there is one takeaway from the conversation for operators, it’s this: Things not only could get worse, there’s a good chance they will. Especially if Joe Biden is elected president in November.

Let’s not forget that during the Trump years, many regulations — and their enforcement — were dramatically relaxed for many industries, including long-term care. And don’t think the boss of the nation’s largest labor organization hasn’t noticed.

Trumka accused the Trump administration of heartlessly bungling the pandemic response. That, by the way, was not the scary stuff. What followed next is. He proceeded to go into a full throated harangue against the Occupational Safety Health Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor.

His accusation? All three have failed miserably in holding labor-law violators accountable.

 “We have an OSHA right now that is the worst in the history of America. Workers are getting slaughtered on the front lines and dying because OSHA is absent. We have the most anti-worker, anti-labor National Labor Relations Board in the history of the country right now,” he claimed.

But his harshest words were saved for the Labor Department.

“We have a department of labor that refuses to actually do anything to help workers. They’ve written one violation, one violation when 5,000 complaints came to them — and they wrote one violation. What about the other 4,999 complaints that they did nothing on? That’s unacceptable,” Trumka said.

Biden has already warned corporate America to get ready for higher taxes. It’s a pretty safe bet that regulatory oversight will also get beefed up if he wins.

That’s not to recommend one candidate or the other. But to believe a new sheriff won’t ratchet up enforcement is sheer folly.

Believe things can’t get worse? That is some seriously wishful thinking.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s