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.
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.
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.