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May 8, 2020 by Matthew Freeman

When 'Essential' Means 'Expendable': Connecting the Dots Between Back-to-Work Orders and Spread of Coronavirus

In the latest episode of CPR Board President Rob Verchick's Connect the Dots podcast, he and CPR Member Scholars Michael Duff and Thomas McGarity explore worker safety issues in the era of the coronavirus.

McGarity begins the conversation with the story of Annie Grant, a 15-year veteran of the packing line at a Tyson Food poultry processing plant in Camilla, Georgia. One morning in late March, weeks after the nation had awakened to the danger of the coronavirus and states had begun locking down, she felt feverish. When her children urged her to stay home rather than work with a fever on the chilled poultry line, she told them that the company insisted that she continue to work. Furthermore, Tyson was offering a $500 bonus to employees if they worked for three months without missing a day. So, she went in to work, where she labored shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of other workers slicing chicken carcasses – thousands of them a day. She soon became too ill to continue, checked herself into a hospital, and later died of COVID-19. Two of her co-workers died of the same disease within days. Tyson later implemented social distancing measures, installed dividers between stations, slowed production …

May 7, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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With the majority of states beginning to loosen their COVID-19 restrictions, many Americans who've been sheltering in place for the past few weeks are now facing a difficult choice: Go back to workplaces that might not be safe, or risk being fired. They'll face similar choices at grocery stores, pharmacies, home centers, and everywhere else they go where they must rely on the precautions taken by owners, managers, and others for their safety.

Eager to fire up the economy with an election approaching, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced his intention to block a fourth stimulus bill if it does not include a provision extending broad immunity to businesses for any COVID-19 infections they cause workers or customers. If adopted, such immunity from litigation would leave us all at the not-so-tender mercies of the marketplace. Shielded from accountability and stung by lost business, too many …

May 6, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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One of the most telling aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is has been its disparate impact on minority communities in the United States. At least three factors seem to be at work in the elevated death rate: uneven access to health care, greater prevalence of preexisting (and often inadequately treated) comorbidities, and greater likelihood of on-the-job exposure. Writing in the Boston Globe last week, CPR Member Scholar Shalanda Baker, together with co-authors Alecia McGregor, Camara Jones, and Michelle Morse, point out yet another way that the pandemic is taking a particular toll on low-income communities and communities of color.

They point to a decision by a for-profit hospital chain, Steward Health Care, to convert Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Mass., which under normal conditions serves as a safety net hospital for low-income residents, into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital.

The co-authors note that while the decision was initially deemed …

April 17, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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Every four years, as presidential elections draw near, the political appointees driving the incumbent administration's regulatory agenda put their feet on the gas, working to cover as much ground as they can before their boss's term is up. It makes no difference whether the current White House occupant is running for reelection or heading off into presidential library-land; they all want to get as much done while they control the steering wheel.

The one thing that usually constrains them, particularly first-termers, is the politics of the moment. Candidates for reelection aren't interested in seeing their agencies promulgate rules that will inflame opposition, and retiring presidents worry a lot about their legacy and aren't so eager to tarnish it with firestorm-inducing midnight regulations. That, at least, has been the norm. But as with so many other things about the Trump administration, standard rules don't apply. And so, we're …

Feb. 12, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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When I was a 7th grader living in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., my school system was one of many around the nation to launch a program of school busing to desegregate its schools. After 18 years, the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education finally traveled a handful of miles down the road from the Supreme Court and arrived in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The program was anything but voluntary as far as the school system was concerned, requiring a court order to make it happen. In fact, the order was very specific: It didn’t simply direct the county to desegregate; it required the county to submit for court approval specific plans laying out which children would go to which schools. It took the county, which fought the order right down to the last possible moment, several tries before the court …

April 23, 2019 by Matthew Freeman
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CPR Member Scholar Bill Buzbee has an op-ed in The New York Times this morning in which he observes that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority faces a true rubber-meets-the-road test as it considers the Trump administration’s determination to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite multiple procedural and substantive problems with the plan.

The administration’s thinly veiled objective with the additional question is to discourage participation in the census by non-citizens, who might understandably fear that revealing their status on an official government questionnaire could result in deportation. Since the Constitution makes clear that the purpose of the census is to count the total population, not just citizens, such questions haven’t been included since 1960.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross apparently regards that problem as a feature, not a bug, no doubt with the approval of the president. So, in March …

Dec. 27, 2018 by Matthew Freeman
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As we prepare to tie a bow on 2018, it’s worth looking back at the various op-eds CPR’s Member Scholars and staff penned over the course of the year. You can find and read every single one of them on our op-ed page. But here are some highlights for quick(er) perusal:

  • In February, CPR’s Founding President, Tom McGarity had a piece in The American Prospect, reviewing the damage done by the GOP congressional majority by means of the Congressional Review Act.
  • Lisa Heinzerling had a March piece in The Washington Post pointing out that, on at least one front, the President is losing his war on sensible safeguards, because, as it turns out, the courts sometimes insist that regulatory agencies follow the Administrative Procedure Act, even when the President is eager to ignore it.
  • In June, CPR President Rob Verchick was in the …

May 29, 2018 by Matthew Freeman
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While most of the press EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is getting these days has to do with his various over-spending scandals, his more lasting impact is likely to be his scorched-earth approach to environmental protections. In an op-ed in The Hill earlier this month, CPR’s Sid Shapiro highlighted one way Pruitt hopes to make an across-the-board, anti-environment impact: By limiting the scope of scientific studies that his agency may consider when developing safeguards.

Under the guise of greater transparency, Pruitt is proposing to restrict the use of studies for which the underlying data is not completely available to the public. That may sound reasonable on its face, but the reality is that plenty of important research and knowledge derives from studies for which some measure of confidentiality is a must. Medical studies typically protect the confidential information of participating patients, for example.

As Shapiro notes …

April 11, 2018 by Matthew Freeman
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CPR’s Member Scholars and staff are off to a fast start on the op-ed front in 2018. We list them all on our op-ed page, but here’s a quick roundup of pieces they’ve placed so far.

Member Scholar Alejandro Camacho joins his UC-Irvine colleague Michael Robinson-Dorn in a piece published by The Conversation. In "Turning power over to states won't improve protection for endangered species," they summarize their recent analysis of state endangered species laws and state funding for enforcement. They write, “Our review shows that most states are poorly positioned to assume primary responsibility for endangered species protection. State laws generally are weaker and less comprehensive than the Endangered Species Act,” and the states themselves are contributing just 5 percent of funding for enforcement of the Act.

In the Bay Journal, Rena Steinzor and David Flores update an op-ed from the end …

Jan. 31, 2018 by Matthew Freeman
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During the State of the Union address last night, no one was surprised to hear President Trump brag about all the work his administration has done slashing regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and financial security. It’s clearly one of his proudest first-year accomplishments — making us all less safe and more vulnerable to industries that profit by polluting the air and water, creating unsafe working conditions, using underhanded financial practices, or selling dangerous products. The president thinks that regulations that curb such misbehavior are simply too costly to indulge and refuses to acknowledge their value in any way.

If you listen carefully when he makes that pitch, you’ll notice that he would have us believe that safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and financial security generate untold “costs” for industry. But as with so many things that are clear to Donald Trump but that …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
May 8, 2020

When 'Essential' Means 'Expendable': Connecting the Dots Between Back-to-Work Orders and Spread of Coronavirus

May 7, 2020

McGarity Op-Ed: Beware Mitch McConnell's Liability Shield!

May 6, 2020

Boston Globe Op-ed: Amidst COVID-19, Hospital Siting Decisions Have Equity Implications

April 17, 2020

Goodwin: Censored Science Rule Lacks Legal Basis

Feb. 12, 2020

Connecting the Dots Between Rulings on Climate Change and School Busing

April 23, 2019

Buzbee in NYT: Census Case Tests SCOTUS Majority's Commitment to Political Neutrality

Dec. 27, 2018

CPR's 2018 Op-Eds