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.

More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers

In the Baltimore Sun: President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.

Type: Op-Eds (May 4, 2020)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz, Rachel Micah-Jones
Joint Letter to Congress Opposing Nationwide Immunity for Businesses that Operate Unsafely Amid Coronavirus

CPR joined with 117 other major labor, worker, consumer, small business, civil rights, women's rights, environmental, legal, justice, health and safety organizations in a letter to congressional leaders opposing legislation that would immunize unsafe businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Type: Legislative Testimony (April 29, 2020)
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Joint Letter to Congress Urging Passage of COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act

CPR joined more than 225 other worker safety organizations in urging Members of Congress to pass the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act, which would require OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect all workers who continue to go to work during the pandemic from exposure to the coronavirus.

Type: Legislative Testimony (April 29, 2020)
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Joint Letter to Congress on Supporting a Resilient Food System in Coronavirus Stimulus Bills

CPR joined more than 50 organizations in a letter urging Congress to ensure that its coronavirus stimulus legislation protects food workers and producers and a safe, resilient food system instead of exploitative industrial livestock production.

Type: Legislative Testimony (April 15, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Flawed CDC Guidance Endangers Workers’ Lives, Say Worker Safety Advocates

Worker safety advocates from CPR and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health expressed outrage today at the newly released coronavirus guidance from the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control (CDC), which fails to protect essential workers, is weaker than previous guidance, and is not based on scientific evidence. Reports of essential workers dying on the job from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the need for additional protections, not less.

Type: News Releases (April 9, 2020)
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz
Joint Letter to CDC on Harmful Coronavirus Guidance for Workplaces

CPR joined more than 500 labor, racial, legal, interfaith, and women’s justice organizations and individuals on a letter demanding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retract its flawed guidance that allows workers exposed to coronavirus to return to work without self-quarantining.

Type: Letters to Agencies (April 9, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Letter to USDA Calling for Aid to Farmers Impacted by COVID-19

CPR joined more than 750 organizations in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the agency to allocate $9.5 billion appropriated for farmers in the CARES Act to local producers rather than corporate agribusiness.

Type: Letters to Agencies (April 9, 2020)
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Author(s): Katie Tracy
Joint Letter to Secretary of Labor re Coronavirus

CPR was one of 30 organizations writing in support of a petition from the AFL-CIO calling for an OSHA emergency temporary standard for infectious disease to address the Coronavirus epidemic. March 13, 2020.

Type: Letters to Agencies (March 13, 2020)
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Joint Letter on COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020

CPR joined with 48 public interest organizations on a letter endorsing passage of the COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020, a vital bill to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.

Type: Legislative Testimony (March 12, 2020)
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Webinar: Climate Justice: How Enforcement Can Help Communities at Risk

On February 26, 2020, CPR Board Member Joel Mintz, Cynthia Rice of California Rural Legal Assistance, and Jon Mueller of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation discussed challenging low-road employers who take advantage of people who face immediate threats from extreme heat, holding polluters accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis, and the challenges of using 1970s-era laws to address community-level impacts of the climate crisis and opportunities for progress.

Type: Webinars (Feb. 26, 2020)
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Author(s): Joel Mintz

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