Trump Administration Continues to Fight Workplace 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. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

TRUMP’S LABOR DEPARTMENT STILL FIGHTING WORKPLACE SAFETY STANDARDS: The AFL-CIO sued the U.S. Department of Labor on May 18, challenging the agency’s refusal to issue a workplace safety rule for the coronavirus. The lawsuit is based on the “grave danger” that COVID-19 poses to workers – “grave danger” being a key trigger for action under the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act. The agency is defending its refusal to create an emergency temporary standard, claiming that a general rule would be of limited use given the wide variety of workplaces. But the department’s existing standards are not designed to protect against the transmission of airborne infectious diseases and do not require employers to identify and mitigate workplace sources of potential exposure to the virus. Clear, enforceable, science-based standards for safe practices are critical to a safe reopening.

WEAKENING LEGAL PROTECTIONS WOULD INFLICT FURTHER SUFFERING ON WORKERS: “This pandemic has laid bare deep economic and racial inequities, with corporate leaders (from the comfort of their homes) forcing essential workers to choose between their safety and a paycheck. While working people of all backgrounds have been placed in jeopardy, workers of color are shouldering a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s risks,” the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) wrote in a recent letter to congressional leaders. Therefore, “Congress must act now to strengthen protections for all workers – Black, brown and white – by requiring, at a minimum, new COVID-19 work safety rules, premium pay, and fully paid sick and family leave. Not only are some Members of Congress resisting these crucial steps, but also some are proposing to weaken existing legal protections.” The SEIU continued: “Such measures would inflict further suffering on the workers who are keeping us safe, healthy, and fed during this crisis.”

NEARLY 26,000 NURSING HOME RESIDENTS HAVE DIED: Nearly 26,000 nursing home residents across the country have died from COVID-19. In addition, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, states have reported more than 60,000 cases of the coronavirus among nursing home residents. More than 34,000 nursing home staff have also been infected, and 449 have died. Only about 80% of the country’s 15,400 Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes have reported the required data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so the numbers of infections and deaths likely are higher. Yet several states have granted nursing homes immunity from liability to their residents. Such immunity only encourages more recklessness, endangering the lives of residents and caregivers alike.