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.

Chemical Detox for the Workplace

Inadequately regulated chemical hazards are at their deadliest in the workplace. People exposed to toxics at work tend to encounter dangerous substances more frequently, for longer durations, and at higher levels than the public at large. Workers are at substantial risk across dozens of sectors including agriculture, domestic cleaning, hair and nail salons, home repairs, building construction, and chemical manufacturing. Read CPR's Detox for the Workplace handbook to see how workers can protect themselves.

Type: Reports (April 10, 2019)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, Katie Tracy
Joint Letter urging back pay for federal contractors who went without pay during the federal government shutdown

In a joint letter signed by 60+ organizations, CPR urges congressional leaders to provide back pay for federal contractors who went without wages during the federal government shutdown, February 4, 2019.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Feb. 4, 2019)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Letter to leaders of the Maryland House Committee on Economic Matters re requiring state contractors to develop worker safety and health plans.

Letter from Katherine Tracy to leaders of the Maryland House Committee on Economic Matters in support of HB24, re requiring state contractors to develop worker safety and health plans. January 23, 2019.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Jan. 23, 2019)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Joint Letter to Members of Congress from the Clean Budget Coalition urging passage of remaining FY19 appropriations bills without "poison pill" ideological policy riders

Joint Letter to Members of Congress from the Clean Budget Coalition urging passage of remaining FY19 appropriations bills without "poison pill" ideological policy riders, November 13, 2018.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Nov. 13, 2018)
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Joint comments on OSHA's NPRM on tracking workplace injuries

Joint comments on OSHA’s NPRM on tracking workplace injuries. Letter to OSHA from CPR Member Scholars Tom McGarity and Sid Shapiro and CPR Policy Analyst Katie Tracy opposing provisions that would roll back requirements in the 2016 final rule, Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, September 28, 2018.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Sept. 28, 2018)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Katie Tracy
Joint Letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee opposing hazardous chemical handling provisions in Farm Bill

Joint Letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairs and Ranking Members from Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, and Rena Steinzor opposing section of the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2) that would codify exemption of high-risk retail facilities that sell hazardous chemicals to commercial end users from OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard, September 24, 2018.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Sept. 24, 2018)
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Author(s): Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Rena Steinzor
Letters to Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates re Worker Safety.

Letters to Maryland Gubernatorial Candidates re Worker Safety. Read a letter from CPR's Rena Steinzor and Katie Tracy to Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous calling for a strengthened Maryland Occupational Safety and Health division, September 21, 2018.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Sept. 21, 2018)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy, Rena Steinzor
Letter to Maryland Govern Larry Hogan re Worker Safety
Letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan re Worker Safety
Type: Letters to Agencies (Sept. 21, 2018)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Katie Tracy
Joint Letters to Food Safety Inspection Service re poulty plant line speeds.

Joint Letters to Food Safety Inspection Service re poulty plant line speeds. CPR and 11 other organizations write to oppose requests from four poultry processors (Ozark Mountain Poultry, Peco Poultry, Pilgrim's Pride, Gerber Poultry) for waivers that would allow them to operate their evisceration lines at speeds that pose health and safety risks to workers and consumers. July 31, 2018. 

Type: Letters to Agencies (July 31, 2018)
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Laurie Ristino's testimony to House Committee on Small Business on regulation and agriculture.

Laurie Ristino's June 21, 2018, testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business on regulation and agriculture, June 21, 2018.

Type: Legislative Testimony (June 21, 2018)
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Author(s): Laurie Ristino

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