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April 20, 2020 by Katie Tracy

Where Is OSHA?

As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, reports abound of essential frontline workers laboring without such basic protective gear as masks, gloves, soap, or water; with improper distancing between workstations and coworkers; and in workplaces alongside infected colleagues. So far, nearly 4,000 workers have filed complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), raising concerns about health and safety conditions inside the workplace. Yet the agency has been largely absent at a time it is most needed.

Shamefully, as COVID-19 illnesses rise in slaughterhouses, grocery stores, hospitals, and other worksites across the nation, the agency has chosen to go against its very mission of protecting America’s workers, ignoring calls to adopt emergency standards and rolling back its enforcement efforts.

Since early March, unions, advocates, and workers have called on OSHA to take immediate action to adopt an emergency temporary standard and subsequent permanent standard to protect frontline workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19. Such an effort was underway during the Obama administration in response to the H1N1 flu pandemic, but Trump’s OSHA removed the rulemaking from the agenda in 2017. Such a rule would guarantee all essential workers a standard level of protection from coronavirus now …

April 9, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Today, the Center for Progressive Reform joined the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health in calling on the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) to retract its outrageous guidance that allows employers to send workers potentially exposed to coronavirus back to work without any guaranteed protections. This flawed guidance is weaker than previous guidance, fails to protect workers, and is not based on scientific evidence.

“CDC’s flawed guidance contradicts its previous guidance for businesses and its current recommendations for members of the public who’ve been exposed to coronavirus, which is to quarantine for 14 days after a potential exposure,” said Matthew Shudtz, Executive Director at the Center for Progressive Reform. “Forcing our nation’s essential workers to remain on the job after exposure poses great risks, not just to their health, but to their coworkers, their families, and the community at …

April 3, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Amazon's response to the coronavirus pandemic is the latest in a long line of instances where the company has put profit ahead of the health, safety, and economic well-being of its workforce. According to Amazon employees at its fulfillment centers and Whole Foods stores, the company is refusing to provide even basic health and safety protections for workers in jobs where they could be exposed to coronavirus.

In Staten Island, New York, several Amazon warehouse workers organized a walk-out after multiple co-workers tested positive for COVID-19 and the company refused to shut down the facility for deep cleaning. In response, the company fired Christian Smalls, an employee who participated in and helped organize the protest. Amazon claims it fired Smalls because the company had put him on paid leave for 14 days and asked him to remain home in self-quarantine after he was exposed to another Amazon …

March 23, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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In my previous post, I explored five essential elements of an effective response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They included closure of all nonessential businesses, paid sick leave and family medical leave, health and safety standards for infectious diseases, hazard pay, and workers' compensation. Here are five more things we need to protect workers and our economy from the crisis.

Universal Basic Income: To help prevent economic collapse, the federal government should provide a minimum monthly wage to all U.S. workers while the COVID-19 emergency continues. Suggested dollar amounts have ranged from $500 to $2,000 per adult and child, but the result should be no less than $2,000 per individual per month to help families sustain rent and mortgage payments, prescriptions, health insurance premiums, food costs, and other household expenses until the COVID-19 crisis ends.

A March 19 Republican proposal, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief …

March 23, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps the planet, it threatens billions of people and all but promises a global economic recession of uncertain magnitude. As I'm sure you are, I’m deeply concerned about what this means for my family, my neighbors, and my broader community.

I’m particularly concerned about working people who frequently interact with the general public and provide essential services, and thus cannot work from home. At the forefront of my mind are custodial and janitorial workers, grocery clerks, bank tellers, gas station attendants, bus drivers, garbage and refuse collectors, pharmacists, health care workers, and law enforcement officers. These workers are our new first responders in this time of crisis, and it’s our responsibility, personally and as a nation, to do everything within our power to protect them and their families from a potentially deadly virus.

I’m also concerned about protecting from …

Feb. 5, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Last week, more than 100 advocates, academics, and reporters joined the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) for a webinar with three leading experts on climate migration and resilience. Presenters discussed the biggest challenges that communities and workers are facing due to the climate crisis.

As the climate crisis brings about more frequent and intense weather events, from wildfires to disastrous flooding, some families have been forced to flee to new communities. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii and a CPR Member Scholar, explained that while decisions to migrate are often multifaceted, families affected by extreme weather events are now considering climate change and environmental disaster in decisions about whether to leave their homes and communities.

Burkett added that slow-onset disasters, such as sea-level rise, and planned relocation are among several climate-related triggering scenarios that scholars focused on migration and displacement are studying. According …

Jan. 22, 2020 by Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick
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​It's no secret that President Trump has harassed staff at federal agencies since his first moment in office. Days after his inauguration, he blocked scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from talking to the press and the public. He famously cracked down on federal labor unions and chiseled early retirees of their expected pension benefits. Now he's requiring hundreds of staff from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Bureau of Land Management to leave their homes in the Washington area and move to offices out West or risk losing their jobs.

The administration has been particularly disdainful of the professional staff at the EPA – the people who work every day to make sure you can take a dip in the lake, fill your lungs on a morning walk, or drink from the tap without some nagging fear of …

Oct. 31, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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On Halloween, nothing seems spookier than a chance encounter with a ghost or goblin, except maybe a zombie. But there is something much more haunting that happens every day. Across the United States, an average of 137 people die daily from occupational diseases caused by on-the-job exposures to toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances. Nearly 200,000 more suffer from nonfatal illnesses annually.

This is no trick. There is no mystery here. In fact, in 2017, more people died from occupational diseases than from motor vehicle accidents or firearms. And that same year, 41 workers died from acute inhalation of a chemical on the job, according to data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) earlier this month. With such a high number of deaths, working with chemicals makes every day at work a fright fest.

Chemical exposures may not be the stuff of nightmares or …

Sept. 19, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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Tomorrow (September 20), I'm standing up for workers' rights by marching to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of the Global Climate Strike. I'll be walking in solidarity with the students and youth organizing the strike to spread the message that climate action is imperative.                      

Addressing the growing climate crisis and creating jobs are two necessary actions often pitted against each other, as if only one were possible at a time. That's a false choice, misleading rhetoric created by the fossil fuel industry and climate science deniers in Congress to slow down government action while continuing to pass the cost of dirty energy extraction onto families and communities – both in dollars and in health consequences. The reality is that we can have both good, green jobs and a healthy environment; thriving workers and a thriving planet go together.

Discussions about climate change often …

July 11, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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Asunción Valdivia, a 53-year old father and farmworker at a Giumarra vineyard in California, died after laboring to pick grapes for ten straight hours in 105-degree heat. When he collapsed, his employer told Valdivia’s son, Luis, who was also working in the field, to drive him to the hospital, but Valdivia died before they arrived.

In Valdivia’s memory, on July 10, Reps. Judy Chu and Raúl Grijalva paved the way to protecting outdoor and indoor workers across the nation from extreme heat by introducing the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R. 3668).

Valdivia is among 815 workers who died on the job because of extreme heat between 1992 and 2017, based on cases documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tens of thousands more workers have suffered illnesses and injuries from exposure to excessive heat. Extreme heat poses the greatest risk …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
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Maryland Weighs Legislation to Protect Food and Farm Workers Amid Pandemic

Jan. 21, 2021

Biden Tapped Frederick, Hughes, Rosenthal for OSHA’s Leadership Team. Here's How They Can Fix the Agency.

July 29, 2020

Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Dangerous Working Conditions

June 19, 2020

Supreme Court Affirms Title VII Protections for LGBTQ+ Community

June 11, 2020

Court Order Okays OSHA Inaction on COVID-19