Unsafe Workplaces Show Need for Accountability

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.

Note: The small business polling numbers were corrected.

HIGH DEATH TOLL IN NURSING HOMES AMID A BACKDROP OF LOBBYING AND DEREGULATION TO SHIELD UNSAFE PRACTICES: Part of the reason the coronavirus death toll is so high at nursing homes is that the industry has fought for “one lobbyist-fueled deregulatory action after another,” allowing unsafe and reckless practices to run rampant, David Dayen noted yesterday in The American Prospect. President Donald Trump’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed loosening nursing home regulations specifically involving infection prevention and reduced fines against nursing homes that harm residents. In addition, CMS rolled back a rule that banned nursing homes from requiring residents to sign agreements giving up their right to litigate disputes in court, even disputes over abuse. Granting nursing homes immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits would perpetuate further abuses, leaving residents to pay the price with their health and their lives.

WALMART FAILING TO PROTECT WORKERS AND CONSUMERS: Eleven states and the District of Columbia warned Walmart CEO Doug McMillon that the big box retailer is failing to protect workers and customers from the coronavirus inside its stores. The states’ letter cited complaints from workers who said they weren’t notified about potential exposure to colleagues with the virus and felt pressured to work even if they were sick or displayed symptoms of COVID-19. Eliminating corporate accountability will not curtail the dangers workers face or the costs they incur when corporations fail to take basic steps to safeguard workers and consumers. It will, however, lead to more preventable illnesses and deaths if companies have little incentive to take appropriate precautions.

MOST SMALL BUSINESSES ARE NOT WORRIED ABOUT LAWSUITS: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce frequently uses the reputation of small businesses as a front to advance big business’ lobbying goals, including in its campaign to obtain blanket legal immunity for businesses that endanger workers and consumers. According to the Chamber’s own polling, only 36% of small businesses are concerned about the threat of coronavirus-related lawsuits – meaning 64% are not. Legal immunity is not needed to protect small business owners, since state law already protects responsible business owners who act reasonably, as the small business advocacy group Main Street Alliance recently noted in a letter to Congress.