Coalition Letter Opposing S. 4317, the “SAFE TO WORK Act

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Re: 142 Organizations Oppose S. 4317, the “SAFE TO WORK Act

Dear Speaker Pelosi, and Leaders McCarthy, McConnell, and Schumer:

In May, the undersigned organizations wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee to strongly oppose any legislation that would establish nationwide immunity for businesses that operate in an unreasonably unsafe manner, causing workers and consumers to risk COVID-19 infection. We explained that removing legal accountability for businesses would both jeopardize the health and safety of workers, and jeopardize everyone who enters those workplaces. In addition, we explained that such immunity would be extremely damaging to the nation’s economic recovery. Now, after reviewing S. 4317, the SAFE TO WORK Act, we are dismayed to see that this proposal is worse than we could have imagined. We strongly and unreservedly oppose S. 4317.

Any recovery requires the public to have confidence that businesses are operating as safely as possible. Establishing legal immunity for businesses that operate unsafely would do the opposite of instilling public confidence. Instead, it would introduce new anxieties to an already highly anxious public. And it would have real-life consequences for every community, because the potential for being held liable for harm caused by failure to take reasonable care is one of the most powerful incentives we have to ensure that businesses operate safely. When workplaces are not properly protected, patients, customers, clients, and the community are all at risk.

This concern is not hypothetical. Some essential businesses have already put employees back in the workforce without ensuring their safety. As a result, infections have spread in and out of the workplace.[1] In some cases, this has led to renewed shutdowns, slowing the pace of recovery.[2] From protecting the food supply chain to preventing needless deaths in nursing homes,[3] it is clear that companies responsible for the health and safety of others must have every incentive to act responsibly. The pandemic cannot be an excuse for failing to take reasonable steps to protect workers and the public.

Greatly compounding the problem are recent trends toward deregulation and lax regulatory enforcement of workplaces.[4] The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has substantially stepped back from its role to protect the health and safety of workers during this pandemic.[5] Under these circumstances, the specter of unsafe workplaces is a significant concern. Without adequate protective equipment and other safety measures, workers will be deterred from coming back to work. Immunity would only exacerbate these problems.

We strongly oppose S. 4317. We urge you to reject this and similar immunity proposals and instead to focus on protecting workers, especially black and brown workers who bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis, and provide the necessary safety nets to ensure that people can pay their rent and put food on the table. For any questions or follow-up, please contact Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice & Democracy, joanned@centerjd.org, or Remington A. Gregg, Public Citizen, rgregg@citizen.org.

Very sincerely,

Accountable.US

AFL-CIO

AFSCME

African American Ministers In Action

Alfred E Smith Houses Resident Association, Inc.

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas

Alliance for Justice

American Association for Justice

American Museum of Tort Law

American Muslim Health Professionals

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

A Better Balance

BiNet USA

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

CAARMA Consumer Advocates Against Reverse Mortgage Abuse

California Employment Lawyers Association

California Reinvestment Coalition

Center for American Progress

Center for Auto Safety

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Disability Rights

The Center for HIV Law and Policy

Center for Justice & Democracy

Center for Popular Democracy

Center for Progressive Reform

Center for Science in the Public Interest

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Chapel Hill Organization for Clean Energy

Citizen Works

Constitutional Accountability Center

Consumer Action

Consumer Assistance Council, Inc.

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of California

Consumer Reports

Consumer Watchdog

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Cortland County Mutual Aid Network

Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.

Demos

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund Earthjustice

Economic Policy Institute

Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)

Environmental Working Group

Equal Voice Action

Equality North Carolina

Essential Information

Farmworker Association of Florida

Florida Silver Haired Legislature, Inc

Food & Water Action

Freedom Network USA

Friends of the Batiquitos Lagoon

Futures Without Violence

Georgia Watch

Global Witness

Government Information Watch

Green For All

Greenpeace USA

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates

Human Rights Watch

Impact Fund

Indivisible

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Justice for Migrant Women

Justice in Aging

Largo Florida Civic Association

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Leading Age California

Legal Aid at Work

Long Term Care Community Coalition

Main Street Alliance

Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC)

Minority Veterans of America

Modern Military Association of America

Mohegan Congregational Church and Inmate Legal Aid Program

NAACP

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (LDF)

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

National Consumers League

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH)

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Equality Action Team

National Lawyers Guild

National Lawyers Guild-Mass Chapter

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Wildlife Federation

National Women’s Health Network

National Women’s Law Center

National Workrights Institute

Natural Resources Defense Council

NC Justice Center

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New America’s Open Technology Institute

New Economics for Women

Northwest Workers’ Justice Project

NYPIRG

Oasis Legal Services

OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates

OHS Section, American Public Health Association

Open Markets Institute

Oxfam America

Partnership for Working Families

People For the American Way

People’s Parity Project

Positive Women’s Network-USA

Project on Government Oversight

Pride at Work

Protect All Children’s Environment

Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)

Public Citizen

Public Justice

Public Rights Project

Rights & Democracy NH

Rights & Democracy VT

Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition

Shriver Center on Poverty Law

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

South Carolina Appleseed

SPLC Action Fund

Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice

Tax March

Texas Watch

Towards Justice

UFCW

Ujima Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community

United For Respect

U.S. PIRG

Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO

Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

Workplace Fairness