Illness Spreads, But Still No Safety Standards

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.

SPIKE IN INFECTIONS AND HOSPITALIZATIONS, YET NO SAFETY STANDARDS FROM OSHA: Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations once again are spiking across the country, even as many states start to reopen. Sustainable economic recovery depends upon safe practices, but don’t expect workplace safety standards from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at least not this year. A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the AFL-CIO’s request for an order requiring OSHA to issue an emergency standard to address safe practices during the pandemic, and OSHA has made clear that it will not act on its own. Granting businesses immunity from liability to injured workers or consumers would give bad actors a competitive advantage at the cost of people’s lives. It would create a race-to-the-bottom dynamic that would reward businesses that rush to reopen, cut corners and put profits before safety.

REPUBLICAN IMMUNITY PROPOSAL WOULD LET CORPORATIONS CHOOSE WHICH STANDARDS TO FOLLOW: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) recently told a reporter the Republican corporate immunity proposal would let employers choose which guidelines they would follow – whether from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or some other federal, state or local governmental entity. Currently, agencies have not issued any rigorous health and safety standards to protect against the coronavirus, and the guidelines that have been issued are general and nonbinding. Letting businesses pick and choose which standards to adhere to undermines the very purpose of setting standards: to protect workers and consumers by following the direction of public health experts and occupational health and safety experts.

CORPORATE IMMUNITY IS A FREE PASS TO ENDANGER WORKERS, CONSUMERS: “Corporate immunity could give employers a free pass to flout worker safety laws, recklessly expose consumers to the virus, or ignore Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on stopping the spread of the coronavirus,” Sejal Singh and Liz Watson of the Progressive Caucus Action Fund wrote in Slate. “On top of that, corporate special interests are also lobbying to get legal immunity from a wide range of critical worker protections, from minimum wage to disability rights laws. In other words, Senate Republicans are giving corporations a license to put workers and customers’ lives at risk.”