fb tracking

Witnesses on Both Sides Agree: Health and Safety Standards Must Be the Top Priority


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.

SENATE HEARING: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on “Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” United Food and Commercial Workers’ International President Marc Perrone, the National Employment Law Project’s Executive Director Rebecca Dixon and Georgetown University Law Center Professor David Vladeck offered compelling testimony on why eliminating corporate accountability will do nothing to curtail the dangers and costs resulting from unsafe corporate practices. They explained that legal immunity would shift the dangers and costs from corporations to workers, consumers, patients and our families. “Authorizing employers and businesses to disregard safety norms by giving them immunity – and, make no mistake, immunity protects only the non-compliant – will inevitably make workers and consumers even more hesitant to go back to work or re-enter the economy so long as this pandemic grips our nation,” Vladeck told the committee.

EVERY WITNESS AGREED: The federal government should issue consistent, industry-specific, enforceable, science-based standards – in other words, corporate accountability, not immunity, is the answer to our current predicament. Clear and specific direction from expert regulators not only would protect workers and consumers, but also would reduce businesses’ potential for liability by reducing the spread of the virus. Strong safety standards are the best way to safely and speedily reopen our economy.

But will Congress and the White House get the message?

TRUMP IS FIGHTING SAFETY STANDARDS: The Trump administration continues to pursue its dangerous “deregulatory agenda” – rolling back key safeguards, failing to provide clear guidelines and suspending enforcement of even weak health and safety standards. Last week the White House blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing new guidelines. Last month, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration stepped back from its role of protecting the health and safety of workers during the pandemic, asking employers to self-police. And on top of that, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that there would be few inspections of workplaces aside from those in high-risk activities like health care and emergency response.