Workers Submit Nearly 15,000 COVID-19 Safety Complaints to OSHA, Yet Businesses Want Immunity From Liability

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.

WORKERS DON’T FEEL SAFE: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received nearly 15,000 coronavirus-related complaints from workers around the country. Filing a complaint and hoping that the federal government will act is one of the few options that workers must try to hold an employer accountable for an unsafe work environment. But the Trump administration refuses to robustly enforce the occupational health and safety law. If workers are harmed as a result, state law offers workers the possibility of holding companies accountable through the civil justice system – but U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants to remove that possibility, leaving employers wholly unaccountable.

CORPORATE IMMUNITY DISPROPORTIONATELY HARMS BLACK AND BROWN WORKERS: McConnell’s plan to provide businesses immunity while lowering unemployment benefits would be a “one-two punch,” according to Demos, forcing Americans into potentially hazardous work environments at high risk of exposure to coronavirus. Combined, these measures would shift the economic risks of the coronavirus away from governments and employers, onto the backs of black and brown workers who are already disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. People of color are at higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 because they are represented in higher proportions in jobs on the front lines of the pandemic such as first responders, factory workers, grocery store workers and nurses.

LIKELY VOTERS IN MICHIGAN OPPOSE EMPLOYER IMMUNITY: A new poll from Crooked Media and Change Research finds that 55% of likely voters in Michigan oppose giving employers legal immunity so that they cannot be sued if their employees contract the coronavirus on the job. Forty-two percent strongly oppose. Economic recovery will require public confidence that businesses are operating as safely as possible. Letting businesses off the hook when they do not take reasonable steps to protect workers and consumers would sabotage that effort and make the pandemic worse. If people do not trust that stores, offices and workplaces are safe, they will not return to them.