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Corporate Immunity Is a Head-in-the-Sand Approach to Worker Safety, Economic Recovery


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. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

SENATOR SHERROD BROWN BLASTS MCCONNELL AND U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OVER CORPORATE IMMUNITY: “We shouldn’t be surprised at Mitch McConnell and the Chamber of Commerce taking advantage of this public health emergency to make it easier for corporations to mistreat workers and consumers and to never be held accountable,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at a Thursday telepresser hosted by Public Citizen. “Of course, that’s what they would do. That’s always been their agenda. We should be making it easier, not harder to hold corporations accountable to keep their workers safe.”

REPORT SHOWS BUSINESSES ARE IGNORING WORKER SAFETY CONCERNS: A new report from Public Citizen shows that many businesses have failed to respond to worker concerns and failed to put in place reasonable protections from the coronavirus. The report focuses on 20 companies – including nursing homes, grocery stores, meat packing plants and warehouses. To safely reopen the economy, Congress must not restrict the right of workers, consumers and patients to hold businesses accountable for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety. “If companies know they cannot be held accountable in court for wrongdoing, it is a virtual certainty that more companies will behave unreasonably and more people will needlessly be harmed,” the report concludes.

MISLEADING CLAIMS VS. THE REALITY ABOUT BUSINESS IMMUNITY: Public Citizen published a memo responding to some of the misleading claims coming from conservative lawmakers and industry proponents of corporate immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Some key things to know: 1) Businesses are asking for immunity that overrides the laws of all 50 states, even for businesses that fail to take reasonable care. 2) Safe practices, not a liability shield, are the key to a sustainable economic recovery. 3) Allowing workers, consumers and patients to hold companies accountable in court hasn’t impeded our economy in the past, and granting businesses immunity won’t restore our economy now.

TRUMP, MCCONNELL, INDUSTRY’S HEAD-IN-THE-SAND APPROACH TO RECOVERY: A new report from the Center for American Progress explains that the Trump administration and its allies in Congress and big business are pursuing an approach that emphasizes the appearance of normalcy, while in fact forcing workers to choose between their safety and their economic well-being. “The combination of regulatory inaction and a proposed liability shield reflects the misguided theory that an unregulated workplace is the best way toward a healthy economy. In other words, as long as employers cannot be held culpable for the risks workers face on the job, those risks can be ignored – or at least, deemed insufficient to justify action,” the report warns. This approach is likely to lead to greater transmission of the virus and a weaker recovery – with the economic pain and public health consequences falling hardest on low-income workers and communities of color, who already have faced disproportionate harm from the crisis.