Corporate America Backtracks: Never Mind About ‘We’re All in This Together’

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

CORPORATE AMERICA BACKTRACKS ON PLEDGES OF SOLIDARITY: When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. four months ago, many companies showcased the various ways they were supporting their customers and workers. “We’re all in this together,” was the mantra from corporate America. But now, as the U.S. surpasses 4 million infections with no end in sight, companies have begun rolling back many of the protections and worker benefits that they trumpeted earlier in the year. Both American Airlines and United Airlines have started selling middle seats again, making social distancing on flights impossible. Many companies have ended hazard pay for front-line workers. Wells Fargo is repossessing cars again. The list goes on. Yet even while they roll back pandemic-related safety measures and benefits, companies are demanding immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Evidently, we’re not in this together after all.

CDC RELEASES NEW SCHOOL REOPENING GUIDELINES: After demands from President Donald Trump that the agency alter its recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for reopening schools. The CDC’s decision to weaken health guidelines in response to pressure from Trump is a stark illustration of the problem of granting immunity to schools, even those that follow such guidelines. When health guidelines are influenced by politics, they cannot be trusted to set forth adequate measures to keep people safe. Granting schools legal immunity would reward those that fail to take reasonable steps to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

MEATPACKING WORKERS SUE OSHA OVER INACTION: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is failing to do its job properly, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by three meatpacking workers who work for Maid-Rite Specialty Foods in Pennsylvania. The workers say that the agency’s inaction has left them in imminent danger due to hazardous conditions at the factory. The lawsuit is one of several legal challenges seeking to compel OSHA and private businesses to act more responsibly to protect workers. Particularly in the absence of federal leadership, court remedies are crucial to affording protection to consumers and workers. Lawsuits like these illustrate the dual role of the courts: to compensate victims for harm and, sometimes even more importantly, to force corporate wrongdoers to take actions to make their workplaces safer.