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June 17, 2020 by Thomas McGarity

OSHA, Other Agencies Need to Step Up on COVID-19, Future Pandemics

Governments and industries are "reopening" the economy while COVID-19 continues to rage across the United States. At the same time, the lack of effective, enforceable workplace health and safety standards puts workers and the general public at heightened risk of contracting the deadly virus. In a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform, Sidney Shapiro, Michael Duff, and I examine the threats, highlight industries at greatest risk, and offer recommendations to federal and state governments to better protect workers and the public.

In many essential industries, the coronavirus risk is particularly acute because of the nature of the work and of the workplaces in which it is conducted. The lack of enforceable, pandemic-specific protections for workers and the hodgepodge of industry responses heighten this danger to workers. Industries affected range from health care to meatpacking, transportation to warehousing.

Heaping injustice on top of danger, coronavirus-related hazards fall disproportionately on Black, Latinx, and low-income workers – people whose economic circumstances and less reliable access to health care renders them all the more vulnerable. These workers are being treated as expendable, forced by the threat of losing their jobs to accept risks no member of Congress or White House staffer would accept …

June 1, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, David Flores, Matthew Freeman, James Goodwin, Brian Gumm, Catherine Jones, Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt, Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick, Robert Glicksman, Alice Kaswan, Thomas McGarity, Joel Mintz, Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden
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Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.

CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …

April 13, 2020 by Thomas McGarity, Wendy Wagner
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Over the last month, the scripts of the daily White House COVID-19 briefings have followed a familiar pattern: President Trump leads off with assurances that the crisis remains “totally under control” and that miracle cures are just around the corner. Then agency experts come to the microphone and tell a very different story.

For example, on March 19, the president reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “very, very quickly” approved a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, for treating COVID-19 that it had previously approved for lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis. Later in the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-time head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned listeners that controlled testing would have to be completed before we know whether the drug works on the novel coronavirus. And FDA later warned that it had definitely not approved hydroxychloroquine for fighting the virus.

The warnings …

Aug. 19, 2019 by Thomas McGarity
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In response to this month's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump urged legislators to enact "red flag" laws to prevent future tragedies. Red flag laws allow police or family members to seek court orders (sometimes called "extreme risk protection orders") that temporarily remove firearms from individuals who present a danger to themselves or others. But do these laws and regulations distract from the larger point about gun violence and mass shootings in the United States?

Trump urged lawmakers to "make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process." On first hearing, this sounds like a call for the government to protect the public from potentially dangerous individuals. But don't be deceived. The president doesn't really want …

April 29, 2019 by Thomas McGarity, Katie Tracy
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Although Workers' Memorial Day was officially April 28, the time has not passed for remembering the thousands of friends, family members, and neighbors whose lives were tragically cut short due to fatal on-the-job incidents this past year. We carry on their memories as we renew the fight for healthy and safe working conditions.

On average, 5,320 workers die on the job every year. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, the death toll was 5,147. These figures do not account for the estimated 50,000 workers who succumbed to occupational diseases caused by chronic exposures to toxic chemicals and other harmful substances they encountered in their workplaces.

Every day across the nation, salon workers are exposed to toxic chemicals like toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish and hair dyes, construction workers inhale asbestos during home renovations and silica during sandblasting, and janitorial …

July 30, 2018 by Thomas McGarity
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This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect. 

Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be a fervent vote against even well-established forms of regulation.

A telling example of Kavanaugh’s ideological aversion to even minimal government regulation is his dissent in a case in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined SeaWorld of Florida following a tragic incident at its Orlando facility in which a killer whale named Tilikum pulled a trainer off a platform and held her underwater until …

July 13, 2017 by Thomas McGarity
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Earlier this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took decisive action to protect hardworking people who are cheated by banks or other financial institutions. Specifically, the federal agency issued a rule limiting what are known as "forced arbitration" agreements in the contracts we must all sign when we open a bank account or purchase certain kinds of financial products and services. Last year, scholars and staff at the Center for Progressive Reform authored a report that supported CFPB's efforts and asked the agency to adopt an even stronger set of protections for consumers. Although the agency did not adopt the stronger provisions, the final rule nevertheless offers crucial protections for American consumers. We are therefore concerned about the rule's ultimate fate in the courts and in Congress. 

Unbeknownst to most Americans, nearly all financial contracts include a clause that requires them to enter into …

Nov. 22, 2016 by Thomas McGarity
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We are about to experience a fifth major assault on the health, safety, environmental, and consumer protections that Congress put in place during the 1960s and 1970s, protections that most of us take for granted. And all indications are that this assault will be more intense and more comprehensive than any of the prior assaults on the governmental protections that shield our families and communities from the ravages of an unfettered free market. 

In my 2013 book, Freedom to Harm, I documented the first four assaults on federal regulatory protections by a dedicated group of trade associations, corporate lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations, and activist groups who were determined to return the American political economy to the laissez-faire benchmark of the late 19th century Gilded Age. 

The First Assault began during the last two years of the Carter administration and lasted well into the Reagan administration. Because …

Jan. 13, 2016 by Thomas McGarity
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President Obama devoted his final state-of-the-union speech to highlighting his administration’s considerable accomplishments, and, more importantly, to articulating a surprisingly robust progressive vision for the future.

And that vision properly included a large role for federal regulation. 

Noting that “reckless Wall Street,” not food stamp recipients, caused the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the President predicted, “working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else.” 

The obvious corollary is that the federal government must maintain a strong regulatory system to prevent companies from imposing risks to the financial and physical health of the American people and to their shared environment. We must therefore design and maintain a regulatory system that is impervious to capture by the companies that it is designed to regulate.

The President did …

Oct. 1, 2015 by Thomas McGarity
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The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far too long to make this much-needed change.

We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite the fact that this delay came at the expense of the health of vulnerable Americans.

The Supreme Court has held that the Clean Air Act prohibits EPA from taking such cost considerations into account when setting the standards, but that does not stop affected industries from railing against any protections the agency promulgates to protect public health.

We can expect the regulated industries to complain that a …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
June 17, 2020

OSHA, Other Agencies Need to Step Up on COVID-19, Future Pandemics

June 1, 2020

CPR Will Stand with Those Who Cannot Breathe

April 13, 2020

Give Government Experts Their Own Microphone

Aug. 19, 2019

President Trump's Call for 'Red Flag' Laws Is a Hypocritical Distraction

April 29, 2019

Honor Fallen Workers by Protecting the Living from Dangerous Workplace Chemicals

July 30, 2018

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh's Deregulatory Agenda

July 13, 2017

With Final Forced Arbitration Rule, the CFPB Continues to Advance the Public Interest