Workers' Rights

All workers have the right to a safe and healthful workplace and a fair wage. But the American workplace has changed dramatically since many of our labor laws were last updated, creating new hazards for workers, and transforming the relationship between employer and employee. New, bigger, more powerful equipment has come online. New chemicals and other toxic substances have come into routine use. New production and construction methods have been introduced.

At the same time, more and more employers rely on “contingent” workers instead of permanent employees to perform jobs at all levels. Employers are also fighting grassroots efforts to raise the minimum wage, denying sick leave and family medical leave, misclassifying workers to avoid overtime pay, and retaliating against workers who report wrongdoing.

Worker deaths or injuries resulting from conditions that violate workplace safety laws are still too common. Often, rather than treating these deadly violations of the law as subjects for criminal investigation, prosecutors simply defer to OSHA or comparable state agencies, significantly reducing the scope of possible penalties, and reducing any deterrent effect as violations are "punished" with light fines. CPR's first-of-its-kind Crimes Against Workers database catalogs state criminal cases brought by enlightened prosecutors, as well as grassroots advocacy campaigns against employers responsible for workers being killed, maimed, or seriously endangered on the job.

Through research and scholarship, CPR Member Scholars and staff offer local, state, and federal policymakers and prosecutors tools to make sure all workers have a safe workplace and a fair deal for their labor. See their work below. Use the search box to narrow the list.

Webinar: Empowering Workers to Sue Employers for Health and Safety Violations

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 this webinar, you will hear from attorneys who support legislative measures to empower workers by providing them a “private right of action” to enforce the law.

Type: Webinars (Feb. 10, 2021)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Biden Has a Congressional Shortcut to Cancel Trump's Regulatory Rollbacks, but It Comes with Risks

The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules. The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office. Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation. There is an alternative, but it comes with risks.

Type: Op-Eds (Jan. 18, 2021)
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Author(s): Daniel Farber
Joint Letter to Incoming Biden-Harris Administration on Regulatory Process Reform

CPR joined the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and 94 other organizations in calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to direct the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to take on the mission of advancing a strong, proactive agenda for safeguarding the public, workers, and the environment. The groups offered a set of recommendations to help ensure that our regulatory system protects workers, consumers, our environment, and our economy.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Dec. 9, 2020)
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Center for Progressive Reform Launches New Initiative to Create a More Just, Sustainable America

The Center for Progressive Reform launched Policy for a Just America today, a major new initiative to use the tools of democracy to advance justice and equity, protect public and environmental health, and create a more sustainable future. The Trump administration has waged a sustained assault on our democracy and rolled back decades’ worth of health, safety, and environmental protections over the last four years. CPR’s Policy for a Just America aims not only to repair the damage but also to reimagine and rebuild our government so that it works for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful few.

Type: News Releases (Dec. 8, 2020)
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Author(s): Brian Gumm
Joint Letter on the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act

CPR joined more than 85 worker safety organizations in a joint letter to Sens. Kamala Harris and Sherrod Brown, expressing support for the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act. The bill directs OSHA to issue a heat stress standard for outdoor and indoor workers.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Oct. 8, 2020)
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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Reflections and Remembrances

CPR's Member Scholars and staff reflect on the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Type: Reports (Oct. 2, 2020)
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Her Black Coffee Always Brewed Strong

CPR's Gillian Metzger, joins fellow Ruth Bader Ginsburg former clerk Abbe Gluck in a New York Times tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice.

Type: Op-Eds (Sept. 22, 2020)
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Author(s): Gillian Metzger
CPR Receives National Grant to Support Push for Private Right of Action to Enforce Worker Safety Laws

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.

Type: News Releases (Sept. 8, 2020)
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Joint Letter to Maryland Legislators on Farmworker Protection Amidst the Pandemic

CPR joined with 70+ organizations in a joint letter to Maryland legislative leaders calling on them to convene a special session of the Maryland legislature in order to adopt legislation to protect the state's farmworkers from COVID-19.

Type: Legislative Testimony (Sept. 2, 2020)
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Second Joint Letter to Ben Grumbles on Transparency During COVID

In May 2020, CPR joined with other organizations from the Chesapeake Accountability Project in a letter to Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles urging increased transparency during the pandemic. Having received no response, the group wrote again to urge that all compliance waivers granted/denied & claims of force majeure related to COVID-19 be made public. The letter also reiterates the importance of MDE providing strong and clear notice to permit holders of its expectations during the pandemic.

Type: Letters to Agencies (Aug. 26, 2020)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz

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