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May 1, 2018 by Katie Tracy

Workers at Risk from USDA's Proposed Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) proposed a rule on Feb. 1 to alter inspection procedures for hog slaughter plants by revoking the existing cap on maximum line speeds and transferring key inspection tasks from USDA inspectors to private plant workers. These changes to current practices raise numerous concerns for worker health and safety, all of which the agency fails to address in the proposal. 

Because of these concerns, Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars Martha McCluskey, Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, and I sent comments to the agency on April 30, urging it to go back to the drawing board and account for the considerable worker health and safety risks its proposal creates before moving forward.  

Meatpacking workers endure some of the most dangerous working conditions in the nation. Workers are exposed to cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions. Because these jobs require thousands of forceful repetitive motions per shift, musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel and shoulder injuries are rampant across the industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking workers experience injuries at a rate of 4.3 injuries per 100 workers, compared to the national …

April 25, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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On Saturday, April 28, CPR will observe Workers' Memorial Day by remembering fallen workers whose lives were taken from this world too soon and by renewing our pledge to fight for all working people. 

Every day in this country, 14 workers leave for work, never to return home. One worker is killed on the job every two hours in the United States. In 2016, 5,190 workers died earning a living, the highest number on record in eight years. That doesn't account for the hundreds of lives lost daily to occupational diseases from exposures to toxic chemicals and substances. Nor does it include the thousands of hard-working Americans who incur severe injuries or contract illnesses on the job each day. 

When I think about what each of these workers and their families endure, I struggle to see why politics so often stands in the way of obvious …

March 26, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Maryland's Occupational Safety and Health division (MOSH) is struggling to carry out its mission of ensuring the health and safety of Maryland workers, according to CPR's analysis of a mandatory performance report the agency provided to the state legislature late last year.

The Maryland legislature mandated the report as a condition of releasing $250,000 of MOSH's FY 2018 funds. Our review of the report and other agency materials leads us to conclude that the agency's limited budget is a key culprit in its shortcomings in recent years. Namely, MOSH is struggling with significant turnover among health and safety inspectors, and this management challenge is compounded by resource shortfalls. Without enough inspectors, MOSH is failing to meet its inspection targets, leaving too many employers to police themselves and putting workers at risk. MOSH is also declining to update its regulatory standards on a …

March 14, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Workers have the right to speak up about health and safety hazards they encounter on the job. And they should be able to feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns without having to worry that they will be fired, demoted, or in some other way retaliated against for doing so. That is exactly what the drafters of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) had in mind when they included a provision in the 1970 law prohibiting employers from retaliating against workers who report concerns to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or to its state counterparts (in states that choose to operate their own OSH programs with approval from federal OSHA). 

Unfortunately, in the more than 47 years since the law's enactment, the anti-retaliation provisions have proven ineffective. Despite legislation introduced in Congress to update the law, no bill has ever gained enough …

Feb. 5, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Today, six CPR Member Scholars and staff members sent a letter to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, calling on the agency to withdraw its proposal to repeal an Obama-era rule aimed at preventing employers from taking workers' hard-earned tips. Last week, Bloomberg Law uncovered a deliberate effort by the DOL to conceal an analysis showing that the proposal would allow business owners and managers to steal and misappropriate billions of dollars – that's "billions" with a "b" – of tips from workers. This theft would be especially devastating for the thousands of restaurant workers and bartenders whose tips represent the vast majority of their take-home pay. 

According to the Bloomberg Law article, DOL leadership balked at the original cost-benefit analysis that career staff had produced because it showed precisely what worker advocates claimed it would: This attack against a sensible safeguard could result …

Feb. 1, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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On the morning of January 26, 2016, Seattle police were called to a construction site where a worker, Harold Felton, was trapped in a collapsed trench. By the time officers arrived, the rescue operation had turned into a recovery; Felton, 36, had died at the scene. 

Felton was working as part of a two-man team employed by Alki Construction to replace a sewer line. According to the police report, 10 minutes before the trench collapsed, the man working alongside Felton had moved to another area about 40 feet away to work on another part of the pipe. He heard a worrisome clunk that he thought sounded like tools hitting the pipe, so he went to check on Felton. Unable to find him, he immediately started digging and made a call to his employer and Alki's owner, Phillip Numrich, who had left the worksite to buy lunch …

Dec. 20, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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President Trump planned and then starred in his own ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, symbolic of all the safeguards for health, safety and the environment that he intends to shred while in office. This mockery of the administration’s obligation to ensure the public is protected from harm caused by corner-cutting businesses coincided with the release of the Administration’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda. What this political stunt — and the rhetoric that goes along with it — really means, however, is that Trump cares more about reducing the sheer number of regulatory safeguards than he does about evaluating the benefits those safeguards provide to our health and safety.  

As with the spring 2017 iteration of the agenda, Trump makes clear he has no concern for working families. OSHA’s fall agenda includes 16 planned activities, up from 14 in the spring. Of the 16, seven are listed as in …

Nov. 20, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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On Thanksgiving Day, families across the country will sit down for huge feasts, filling their bellies with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of gravy. My mouth is watering just writing about it. In many households, it's tradition for each person at the table to say what they're thankful for and express their appreciation for the meal in front of them. But when it comes to that delicious meal, we often overlook the workers inside the poultry slaughter facilities and processing plants who do the incredibly labor-intensive and dangerous work required to bring our turkeys from farm to table. This year's the perfect time to get woke

At this very moment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering a petition that would eliminate a standard that sets the maximum speed of poultry plants' "evisceration lines" – that's the line of hooks or …

Nov. 2, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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Scott Mugno, Vice President for Safety, Sustainability, and Vehicle Maintenance at Fed Ex Ground in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is President Trump's pick to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although whispers of Mugno's possible nomination had spread across Washington, D.C., over the past several months, not much has been said about his credentials for the job. One major concern is Mugno's connection to the notoriously anti-regulatory U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for which he is currently the chairman of the OSHA subcommittee of the group's Labor Relations Committee. And as Jordan Barab, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA, highlights in his excellent blog post on the nomination, Mugno expressed interest in sunsetting OSHA standards in comments he made at a Chamber event last year. 

When Mugno goes before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for confirmation hearings, it will be imperative …

Oct. 30, 2017 by Katie Tracy
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Too often, workplace injuries and deaths result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward unacceptably risky behavior under the false pretense that cutting corners is standard practice and no one will get hurt. As a result, an average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every day, and many more are seriously injured. 

Click to visit Crimes Against Workers DatabaseIn many cases, these tragedies and the grave pain they impose on the victims' families, friends, and communities are preventable with basic safety measures. Nevertheless, employers and authorities commonly treat work-related deaths and injuries as "accidents" rather than investigating them as potential crimes. They simply pass these cases off to regulators at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or a state counterpart, which conducts an investigation and assesses what amounts to an insignificant civil penalty – a fine that can be as small as a few thousand dollars. Then, everyone …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 3, 2020

CPR's Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

July 29, 2020

Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Dangerous Working Conditions

July 28, 2020

CPR Leads Legal Academics in Ensuring Citizen Access to Justice in the Wake of COVID-19

July 2, 2020

Will COVID-19 'Shock' Workplace Injury Law Like the Railroads of the Early 20th Century?

June 19, 2020

Supreme Court Affirms Title VII Protections for LGBTQ+ Community

June 18, 2020

The Climate Crisis and Heat Stress: Maryland Farms Must Adapt to Rising Temperatures

June 17, 2020

OSHA, Other Agencies Need to Step Up on COVID-19, Future Pandemics