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.

OSHA's Discount on Danger: OSHA Should Revise Its Informal Settlement Policies to Maximize the Deterrent Value of Citations

More than 30,000 workers have died as a result of on-the-job injuries since 2009, many because their employers failed to follow safety procedures -- violations for which OSHA imposed fines. But a report from CPR finds that OSHA is routinely discounting those fines, greatly diminishing any deterrent value.

Type: Reports (June 9, 2016)
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Author(s): Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, Katie Tracy
When a Workplace Tragedy Is Also a Crime

Writing for FairWarning and the Sacramento Bee, Rena Steinzor and Katie Tracy point to recent on-the-job deaths that resulted from employer negligence and call for prosecution of companies, supervisors and executives who cut corners at the expense of their employees life and limb.

Type: Op-Eds (May 31, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Katie Tracy
Worker Deaths Should Lead to Punishment for Companies, Executives

Worker Deaths Should Lead to Punishment for Companies, Executives, op-ed by Rena Steinzor and Katie Tracy

Type: Op-Eds (May 31, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor, Katie Tracy
Dangerous Bedfellows: The stalemate on criminal justice reform.

Writing for The American Prospect, Rena Steinzor takes note of the unusual roll call of supporters for criminal justice reform legislation, and efforts by conservatives to use the bill to weaken enforcement of white-collar crime laws.

Type: Op-Eds (May 11, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

Judgment Day for Reckless Executives, op-ed by Rena Steinzor

Type: Op-Eds (April 7, 2016)
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Author(s): Rena Steinzor
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

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