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.

Preventing Death and Injury on the Job: The Criminal Justice Alternative in State Law

Preventing Death and Injury on the Job: The Criminal Justice Alternative in State Law, CPR Paper 1602. This manual begins by explaining why local prosecutors should focus more attention on bringing criminal charges against employers—the business entity as well as responsible executives and managers—in appropriate cases involving the death or serious injury of one or more workers. It also offers an introduction to criminal law and criminal procedure to help advocates understand what charges might apply. Then, this manual discusses how to build a successful campaign, and provides an appendix of helpful resources that advocates can utilize and tailor to fit their campaign.

Type: Reports (March 16, 2016)
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Author(s): Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, Katie Tracy
CPR's comments on USDA FY 2017 appropriations

CPR's comments on USDA FY 2017 appropriations

Type: Legislative Testimony (March 15, 2016)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz
Katherine Weatherford's letter to Maryland Delegates Dereck E. Davis and Sally Jameson on Construction Safety

Katherine Weatherford's letter to Maryland Delegates Dereck E. Davis and Sally Jameson on Construction Safety bill, HB 977, February 29, 2016.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Feb. 29, 2016)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Comments on Draft OSHA Guidance for Recommended Practices for Preventing and Addressing Retaliation.

Joint comments on draft OSHA Guidance: Recommended Practices for Preventing and Addressing Retaliation.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Jan. 19, 2016)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro
Letter to Department of Labor on Executive Order 13673 Guidance

Letter to Department of Labor on Executive Order 13673 Guidance, "Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces," on behalf of poultry and meatpacking workers.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Aug. 26, 2015)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz, Katie Tracy
Kill a Worker? You're Not a Criminal. Steal a Worker's Pay? You Are One.

Kill a Worker? You're Not a Criminal. Steal a Worker's Pay? You Are One, op-ed by Rena Steinzor

Type: Op-Eds (July 21, 2015)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
With DuPont, OSHA's tough talk falls faint

With DuPont, OSHA's tough talk falls faint, op-ed by Rena Steinzor

Type: Op-Eds (May 22, 2015)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Criminal investigations crucial to making refineries safer

Criminal investigations crucial to making refineries safer, op-ed by Rena Steinzor

Type: Op-Eds (March 23, 2015)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Goodwin Testimony to House Small Business Committee

James Goodwin Testimony to House Small Business Committee re silica rule and Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy

Type: Legislative Testimony (March 18, 2015)
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Author(s): James Goodwin

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