Front-line healthcare, grocery store, food processing, and other essential workers face increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and resulting illness or death, raising grave concerns around the lack of meaningful worker protection rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It is imperative that the public understand the reasons behind OSHA’s failure to enact comprehensive worker protection rules, which is putting essential workers’ lives at risk.
The extent of protections for front-line healthcare workers appears to be limited to an OSHA rule drafted three years ago, with no enactment of a finalized rule in sight. And following Trump’s April 28th executive order ensuring that meat processing plants remain open, OSHA hasn’t issued rules ensuring the safety of employees, despite calls from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for emergency protection guidelines. Conditions are so hazardous that a Smithfield pork factory in South Dakota was forced to close after becoming a coronavirus hot spot, and other meat processing factories have reported similarly high levels of infection and death among workers.
CREW has requested communications between the Department of Labor, under which OSHA is housed, and outside groups on proposals and guidance in regulating workplace exposure to infectious disease, including COVID-19.
The requested records will reveal the extent to which OSHA is ignoring Congressional calls for protection and is potentially being influenced by industry. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first time that the Department of Labor has directly gone against Congressional demands for more worker protection rules amidst the pandemic. In April, Labor drastically scaled back employer requirements to adhere to paid sick leave rules, manipulating the intent of a law Congress passed meant to expand worker protections. The public deserves to know if Labor is bolstering Trump’s political agenda instead of saving essential workers’ lives by withholding comprehensive worker protection rules.