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.
Even as COVID-19 continues to rage across the United States, governments and industries are "reopening" the American economy. As a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform shows, in the absence of sufficient safeguards, this puts workers and the general public at heightened risk of contracting the deadly virus.
The nation's workplaces are not nearly as safe or healthy as they need to be to protect all workers, and workers lack the power they deserve to speak up against exploitation without fear of significant retaliation. Fixing the current system requires an updated and vastly improved labor law that empowers workers to speak up about health and safety hazards, rather than risk their lives out of fear of losing employment and pay. It also requires that workers be empowered to fight back when government agencies fail to enforce safety and health requirements. The authors propose guaranteeing all workers a private right of action to enforce violations of the law, coupled with incentives for speaking up and strong whistleblower protections.
Over the last several decades, U.S. workers have been systematically disempowered and silenced. A new report from the Center for Progressive Reform explains that because of this, the nation's workplaces are not nearly as safe or healthy as they need to be, and workers lack the power they deserve to speak up against exploitation and abuse without fear of significant retaliation. Read the news release accompanying CPR's report, OSHA's Next 50 Years: Legislating a Private Right of Action to Empower Workers.