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.
The Center for Progressive Reform is among nine recipients of a national grant by Clean Slate for Worker Power to advance labor law reform. The $47,200 award will help CPR advocate for a private right of action that would allow workers to enforce Maryland health and safety laws and identify complementary policies that provide workers a more formal role in government-led enforcement, such as participation in inspections and enhanced whistleblower protections.
CPR joined with 70+ organizations in a joint letter to Maryland legislative leaders calling on them to convene a special session of the Maryland legislature in order to adopt legislation to protect the state's farmworkers from COVID-19.
CPR joined more than 85 worker safety organizations in a joint letter to Sens. Kamala Harris and Sherrod Brown, expressing support for the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act. The bill directs OSHA to issue a heat stress standard for outdoor and indoor workers.
Workers presently have no right to bring a lawsuit against employers under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) or equivalent state laws when employers fail to provide safe and healthy working conditions. This gap in the law has been especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic, as workers across the United States have faced a massive workplace health crisis without any meaningful support from OSHA or most states or territories. Even with an incoming OSHA that is more supportive of workers’ rights and expected to better enforce standards, providing workers a “private right of action” will bolster the agency’s activities. In our March 5 webinar, attendees heard from attorneys who support legislative measures to empower workers by providing them a “private right of action” to enforce the law.
CPR joined the Government Accountability Project and 263 other organizations in calling on the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to improve federal whistleblower protections for public-sector workers.