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. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEGAL IMMUNITY ‘GOES TOO FAR,’ SAYS SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL: “There should never be blanket legal immunity for anything, least of all something so tragic as an epidemic that already has killed at least 83,000 Americans,” the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote in a Wednesday editorial. The Florida Legislature is just one among many statehouses under pressure from industry lobbyists to grant businesses immunity from liability if they cause COVID-related injury to workers, consumers or patients, the paper noted. “The Florida Legislature is primed to immunize every sort of activity from grocery stores to condominium swimming pools. That would set a terrible precedent for covering up errors of negligence that made a tragic epidemic even worse.”
PELOSI OPPOSES IMMUNITY, CALLS FOR WORKER SAFETY STANDARDS: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters in an April 29 press conference that both she and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) oppose immunity for businesses, and that their priority is protecting consumers and workers. She reiterated her position in a Monday night interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. When asked about granting immunity to businesses, she said, “It’s unlikely that at a time of the coronavirus that we would say, ‘Just be cavalier. We know it’s contagious – the way it spreads, but you’re off the hook if anything happens, even if you do not comply with the OSHA regulation.’ So, we want [employers] to accept the expanded OSHA regulation and protect their workers. OSHA protection is your protection, Mr. or Mrs. Employer.” Business immunity was not included the HEROES Act, the House’s latest economic rescue proposal, which the lower chamber is expected to vote on today.
CORNYN IN NO HURRY TO IMMUNIZE BUSINESSES: With U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) blessing, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is spearheading Republican efforts to develop business immunity proposals at the federal level, which would paper over the laws of all 50 states to take away people’s right to hold businesses accountable for injury, fraud, defective products, retaliation and other harms to workers, consumers and patients. But Republican lawmakers don’t expect legislation to be ready until June at the earliest, according to The Hill. Although Cornyn may release his immunity proposals in the next few days, “We’re not in any big hurry,” he said. That’s unsurprising, given the strong policy arguments against the idea and the significant constitutional questions it raises.