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Senate plan to gut worker protections in COVID-19 relief package is “shameful and outrageous”

Thursday, December 10, 2020
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

Senate plan to gut worker protections
in COVID-19 relief package is
“shameful and outrageous”

Proposed ban on employer liability lawsuits also blocks enforcement of federal labor laws

The following statement is from Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH)

“A proposal from the U.S. Senate to exempt employers from COVID-related enforcement of health and safety laws, fair labor standards and other worker protections is completely unacceptable and cannot be part of any pandemic relief package. This is a dangerous proposal that relieves corporations and employers from providing safe workplaces, impacting all communities and exacerbating this pandemic.  

“No worker should ever have to risk her or his life simply to earn a paycheck -- but that’s exactly what has happened to tens of millions of frontline workers this year. It’s shameful and outrageous that any senator would even think of taking away basic workplace rights as a condition of providing long-overdue financial assistance to workers and families whose lives have been devastated by COVID-19. This is a slap in the face to our essential worker communities.

“Congress must act now to help workers, families and our local and state governments, without any strings attached. All workers regardless of status should get help from this federal relief”

Background: The falsely-named “Safe to Work Act,” introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would not only bar COVID-related lawsuits against employers. It ALSO includes a provision stating that “an employer shall not be subject to any enforcement proceeding or liability under any provision of a covered Federal employment law…”  

The covered employment laws specified in the proposed legislation include the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Age Discriminiation in Employment Act, the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

See Subtitle D—Relation to Labor and Employment Laws, p. 56