For Immediate Release:
February 3, 2021
Government Accountability Project, National COSH, and 100+ Worker Groups Release 2021 “Agenda for Worker Safety and Health”
OSHA a catastrophic failure during pandemic – agenda outlines how Biden-Harris
Administration can protect workers and rebuild our economy
WASHINGTON – As we hit the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 entering the United States, frontline and essential workers across the country continue to grapple with deadly conditions at their jobs. To save lives and get us back to work safely, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and Government Accountability Project today released an eight-point “National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health”.
“Workers are sick, broke and dying – because so far during this pandemic, employers, OSHA and our federal government have failed to protect workers from the risk of infectious disease,” said Jessica Martinez, National COSH’s co-executive director. “We know workplace exposures play a major role in the virus transmission. We know that six poultry workers are dead and many other seriously injured from a preventable disaster in Georgia because safety measures were not followed.”
“Workers are not only potential victims of workplace safety and health problems – they are in the best position to warn about those problems to prevent harm,” said Dana Gold, Senior Counsel for Government Accountability Project. “Unfortunately, protections for whistleblowers to report workplace hazards are notoriously weak, putting all workers at unnecessary and preventable risk. During the coronavirus pandemic alone, whistleblowers at meatpacking plants and at immigration detention centers have warned about failures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, finding themselves suffering both the risk of contagion and the risk of retaliation. Reform to protect all workers – starting with those who bravely report health and safety hazards – is long overdue.”
Endorsed by more than 100 worker and community-based organizations the National Agenda is a bold, transformational vision for the future of worker health and safety in the U.S. The agenda brings together ideas based on real experience in our workplaces to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and other longstanding workplace hazards, such as the recent preventable tragedy at a poultry plant in Georgia which has claimed six lives so far.
The National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health includes eight goals:
- Strengthen and enforce our safety laws and regulations
- Don’t let employers silence us: Workers must be protected by strong anti-retaliation protections
- Listen to workers – we need a seat at the table
- Safe workplaces for all: Equity and inclusion
- Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers, no special deals for corporations
- Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent and protect against COVID-19
- Confront the Workplace Effects of Climate Change
- Prevent chemical catastrophes and harmful exposures
The research is clear – workplaces remain key sites where the virus can spread rapidly, underscoring that workplace health and safety is public health and safety. The conditions these workers face are not inevitable – they are the outcomes of egregious actions by employers who have not been held accountable and a workplace health and safety infrastructure that has been running on empty for decades.
Last year, when Vice President Harris served in the Senate, she sponsored the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act to make sure that frontline workers have strong whistleblower protections. Government Accountability Project proudly endorsed the bill. Unfortunately, the 116th Congress did not pass the bill, leaving a gaping hole for whistleblowers’ rights during the pandemic. However, Government Accountability Project hopes that the Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress will quickly pass the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act and continue improving whistleblower protections for American workers including strengthening rights for federal employees.
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Phone: (202) 926-3304
Government Accountability Project
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.