Trump, Agencies, Businesses Shirking Responsibility to the Public

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.

CONCERN ABOUT TRUMP’S COVID-19 WAIVERS: Prompted by President Donald Trump’s rally scheduled for Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) introduced a bill – the Refusal to Accept Losses or Liability In Every Situation (RALLIES) Act – to block enforcement of liability waivers for indoor gatherings of 1,000 people or more in places where the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing during the preceding 14 days. Liability waivers have become a flashpoint while Congress awaits a bill from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposing to immunize businesses from liability for  “everything in the coronavirus space.” His bill is expected in July.

FAA WON’T MANDATE MASKS ON AIRPLANES: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it will not require, or even advise, passengers to wear masks on planes, leaving the decision on whether to require passengers to wear protective gear up to individual airlines. FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee that the agency would leave guidance about mask-wearing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because, in his view, public health concerns fall outside the scope of the FAA’s “aviation safety” mission. Thus, the Trump administration is both refusing to require safe practices and advocating for immunity for businesses from worker and consumer lawsuits that may arise from harm caused by unsafe practices.

WORKERS STANDING UP FOR THEIR HEALTH AND SAFETY: In the absence of clear, enforceable, science-based safety standards and with the threat of legal immunity for businesses looming, workers are fighting to protect their health and safety. As Politico reported, “Steel mill workers in Gary, Ind., have called the AFL-CIO asking how to get more personal protective equipment because their bosses didn’t supply enough. Ride-hail drivers in California are asking union shops how to get gear too. Employees at the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in central Minnesota have protested working conditions. And while larger grocery store chains like Kroger or Jewel-Osco have a unionized workforce, people employed at smaller stores in St. Louis and restaurant workers in Chicago want to know how to organize.” Thanking workers and calling them “heroes” or “warriors” isn’t enough – they need protection as well. Liability laws are an important part of that protection, giving businesses an incentive to take reasonable steps to keep workers safe and giving employees a way to seek compensation when their employers fail to do so.