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.

Webinar: Forced Arbitration, Workers, and Marginalized Communities

Arbitration requires people to go through a private dispute resolution process, is often biased against workers and consumers, and typically slams the courthouse doors on those who are injured or harmed in the workplace. It's a standard condition in most, if not all, non-union employment and consumer contracts, and it's considered “forced” because few consumers or workers are aware that they are agreeing to mandatory arbitration when they sign such contracts. This requires them to resolve many types of alleged violations of state and federal laws through arbitration, including laws passed to protect against harmful and dangerous products, consumer fraud, employment discrimination, and other forms of wrongdoing. In our Feb. 15 webinar, co-hosted with the Workers' Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, experts will discuss how workers and historically marginalized communities are adversely impacted by forced arbitration. The Center for Progressive Reform's upcoming report on the topic will serve as a springboard for the discussion.

Type: Webinars (Feb. 15, 2022)
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Author(s): M. Isabelle Chaudry
Learning Lessons to Protect Workers Through Pandemics

Although vaccination rates continue to rise and coverage on COVID-19 is fading away from prominent news dashboards, our rates are still higher than in summer 2020. While we still adapt to living and working with COVID-19, we must prepare for future public health emergencies so we do not lose another year figuring out our response.

Type: Op-Eds (Nov. 16, 2021)
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Author(s): M. Isabelle Chaudry, Emily Ranson
Joint Letter to the U.S. State Department on the Pending Au Pair Rule

The Center for Progressive Reform joined more than 100 workers’ rights organizations, national organizations, and local and community organizations in opposing the U.S. State Department's pending au pair rule. The rule would undermines labor standards and is at odds with the administration’s support for care workers.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Nov. 12, 2021)
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Testimony to Subcommittees of the House Education and Labor Committee on the Biden Administration's COVID-19 Vaccine Standard for Workplaces

On October 26, 2021, CPR Vice President Sidney Shapiro testified about the need and legality of the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine standard for workplaces. Shapiro presented his testimony to the Workplace Protections and Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittees of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Oct. 26, 2021)
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Author(s): Sidney Shapiro
Testimony to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division of Labor and Industry on Heat Stress Protections

CPR Senior Policy Analyst M. Isabelle Chaudry testified to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) Division of Labor and Industry about heat stress protections for Maryland workers. She provided the agency with recommendations to ensure that its forthcoming standard is effective, strong, and worker-centered.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Sept. 23, 2021)
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Author(s): M. Isabelle Chaudry
Center for Progressive Reform Expands Staff of Policy Analysts

The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is pleased to announce that it is expanding its staff to strengthen policy expertise and advocacy work in the areas of climate change, worker justice, and equity. M. Isabelle Chaudry and Catalina González joined the organization in mid-July and bring strong policy and social justice experience to CPR. Their unique perspectives will enrich and strengthen the organization’s work at the intersection of racial justice and a sustainable planet.

Type: News Releases (July 19, 2021)
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Author(s): Brian Gumm
Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Board Members

The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is pleased to announce three new members on its Board of Directors. Each brings a wealth of experience and unique perspectives to CPR and will enrich and strengthen the organization’s work toward racial justice and a sustainable planet. Joining the Board are Alejandro Camacho, a law professor and longtime CPR Member Scholar; Sekita Grant, a leader in environmental health and justice; and Ajulo Othow, a leader in equitable renewable energy solutions.

Type: News Releases (July 8, 2021)
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Author(s): Brian Gumm
Preventing "Double Disasters"

It’s past time to address “double disasters” — hazardous chemical releases by industrial facilities that are worsened by inadequate action in the face of conditions of climate change and natural disasters. As the global climate crisis intensifies, coastal and inland communities are increasingly at risk of natural disasters. When industrial facilities in these communities fail to adequately prepare for extreme storms, wildfires, earthquakes, heat waves, floods, rising sea levels, and other natural disasters, hazardous chemicals stored onsite can ignite, explode, and there may be dangerous and even catastrophic releases that threaten the health and safety of workers and the public. This can lead to a cascading series of harms, including toxic chemical exposures, on top of the effects of the storm itself. This brief spotlights this urgent issue, proposes policy solutions, and calls on federal leaders to take bold and prompt action to solve this problem.

Type: Reports (July 7, 2021)
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Author(s): David Flores, Darya Minovi
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)
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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)
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Author(s): Minor Sinclair

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