Workers' Rights

All workers have the right to a safe and healthful workplace and a fair wage. But the American workplace has changed dramatically since many of our labor laws were last updated, creating new hazards for workers, and transforming the relationship between employer and employee. New, bigger, more powerful equipment has come online. New chemicals and other toxic substances have come into routine use. New production and construction methods have been introduced.

At the same time, more and more employers rely on “contingent” workers instead of permanent employees to perform jobs at all levels. Employers are also fighting grassroots efforts to raise the minimum wage, denying sick leave and family medical leave, misclassifying workers to avoid overtime pay, and retaliating against workers who report wrongdoing.

Worker deaths or injuries resulting from conditions that violate workplace safety laws are still too common. Often, rather than treating these deadly violations of the law as subjects for criminal investigation, prosecutors simply defer to OSHA or comparable state agencies, significantly reducing the scope of possible penalties, and reducing any deterrent effect as violations are "punished" with light fines. CPR's first-of-its-kind Crimes Against Workers database catalogs state criminal cases brought by enlightened prosecutors, as well as grassroots advocacy campaigns against employers responsible for workers being killed, maimed, or seriously endangered on the job.

Through research and scholarship, CPR Member Scholars and staff offer local, state, and federal policymakers and prosecutors tools to make sure all workers have a safe workplace and a fair deal for their labor. See their work below. Use the search box to narrow the list.

Department of Labor's Emergency Temporary Standard Too Weak to Protect All Workers from COVID-19

The Labor Department’s emergency COVID standard, released today, is too limited and weak to effectively protect all workers from the ongoing pandemic. Workers justifiably expected an enforceable general industry standard to protect them from COVID-19, and the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has been calling for such a standard since June 2020. But what emerged after more than six weeks of closed-door White House review was a largely unenforceable voluntary guidance document, with only health care workers receiving the benefit of an enforceable standard.

Type: News Releases (June 10, 2021)
Read PDF Read Online
Author(s): James Goodwin
Joint Letter to Biden Administration on an Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19

CPR joined workers' rights, occupational safety and health, academic, and faith organizations and leaders in a letter to President Joe Biden, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urging approval of OSHA's long overdue Emergency Temporary Standard to protect frontline workers from COVID-19.

Type: Letters to Agencies (April 28, 2021)
Read PDF
Author(s): Minor Sinclair
Joint Letter to Biden Administration and Congress on Strengthening Federal Whistleblower Protections

CPR joined the Government Accountability Project and 263 other organizations in calling on the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to improve federal whistleblower protections for public-sector workers.

Type: Letters to Agencies (April 1, 2021)
Read PDF
Webinar: Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Health and Safety Violations

Workers presently have no right to bring a lawsuit against employers under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) or equivalent state laws when employers fail to provide safe and healthy working conditions. This gap in the law has been especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers across the United States have faced a massive workplace health crisis without any meaningful support from OSHA or most states or territories. Even with an incoming OSHA that is more supportive of workers’ rights and expected to better enforce standards, providing workers a “private right of action” will bolster the agency’s activities. In our March 5 webinar, attendees heard from attorneys who support legislative measures to empower workers by providing them a “private right of action” to enforce the law.

Type: Webinars (March 5, 2021)
Read Online
Author(s): Katie Tracy
Biden Has a Congressional Shortcut to Cancel Trump's Regulatory Rollbacks, but It Comes with Risks

The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules. The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office. Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation. There is an alternative, but it comes with risks.

Type: Op-Eds (Jan. 18, 2021)
Read PDF
Author(s): Daniel Farber
Joint Letter to Incoming Biden-Harris Administration on Regulatory Process Reform

CPR joined the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and 94 other organizations in calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to direct the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to take on the mission of advancing a strong, proactive agenda for safeguarding the public, workers, and the environment. The groups offered a set of recommendations to help ensure that our regulatory system protects workers, consumers, our environment, and our economy.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Dec. 9, 2020)
Read PDF
Center for Progressive Reform Launches New Initiative to Create a More Just, Sustainable America

The Center for Progressive Reform launched Policy for a Just America today, a major new initiative to use the tools of democracy to advance justice and equity, protect public and environmental health, and create a more sustainable future. The Trump administration has waged a sustained assault on our democracy and rolled back decades’ worth of health, safety, and environmental protections over the last four years. CPR’s Policy for a Just America aims not only to repair the damage but also to reimagine and rebuild our government so that it works for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful few.

Type: News Releases (Dec. 8, 2020)
Read PDF Read Online
Author(s): Brian Gumm
Joint Letter on the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act

CPR joined more than 85 worker safety organizations in a joint letter to Sens. Kamala Harris and Sherrod Brown, expressing support for the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act. The bill directs OSHA to issue a heat stress standard for outdoor and indoor workers.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Oct. 8, 2020)
Read PDF
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Reflections and Remembrances

CPR's Member Scholars and staff reflect on the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Type: Reports (Oct. 2, 2020)
Read Online
Her Black Coffee Always Brewed Strong

CPR's Gillian Metzger, joins fellow Ruth Bader Ginsburg former clerk Abbe Gluck in a New York Times tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice.

Type: Op-Eds (Sept. 22, 2020)
Read PDF
Author(s): Gillian Metzger

Advanced Search Filters

Reset Filters