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April 3, 2020 by Katie Tracy

Amazon vs. Its Workers

Amazon's response to the coronavirus pandemic is the latest in a long line of instances where the company has put profit ahead of the health, safety, and economic well-being of its workforce. According to Amazon employees at its fulfillment centers and Whole Foods stores, the company is refusing to provide even basic health and safety protections for workers in jobs where they could be exposed to coronavirus.

In Staten Island, New York, several Amazon warehouse workers organized a walk-out after multiple co-workers tested positive for COVID-19 and the company refused to shut down the facility for deep cleaning. In response, the company fired Christian Smalls, an employee who participated in and helped organize the protest. Amazon claims it fired Smalls because the company had put him on paid leave for 14 days and asked him to remain home in self-quarantine after he was exposed to another Amazon associate confirmed to have COVID-19. However, leaked notes from an internal Amazon meeting reveal a strategy to smear Smalls and “make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” Smalls told ABC News that the company put him on quarantine in an effort to silence him and prevent the protest from happening …

March 23, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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In my previous post, I explored five essential elements of an effective response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They included closure of all nonessential businesses, paid sick leave and family medical leave, health and safety standards for infectious diseases, hazard pay, and workers' compensation. Here are five more things we need to protect workers and our economy from the crisis.

Universal Basic Income: To help prevent economic collapse, the federal government should provide a minimum monthly wage to all U.S. workers while the COVID-19 emergency continues. Suggested dollar amounts have ranged from $500 to $2,000 per adult and child, but the result should be no less than $2,000 per individual per month to help families sustain rent and mortgage payments, prescriptions, health insurance premiums, food costs, and other household expenses until the COVID-19 crisis ends.

A March 19 Republican proposal, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief …

March 23, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps the planet, it threatens billions of people and all but promises a global economic recession of uncertain magnitude. As I'm sure you are, I’m deeply concerned about what this means for my family, my neighbors, and my broader community.

I’m particularly concerned about working people who frequently interact with the general public and provide essential services, and thus cannot work from home. At the forefront of my mind are custodial and janitorial workers, grocery clerks, bank tellers, gas station attendants, bus drivers, garbage and refuse collectors, pharmacists, health care workers, and law enforcement officers. These workers are our new first responders in this time of crisis, and it’s our responsibility, personally and as a nation, to do everything within our power to protect them and their families from a potentially deadly virus.

I’m also concerned about protecting from …

Feb. 5, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Last week, more than 100 advocates, academics, and reporters joined the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) for a webinar with three leading experts on climate migration and resilience. Presenters discussed the biggest challenges that communities and workers are facing due to the climate crisis.

As the climate crisis brings about more frequent and intense weather events, from wildfires to disastrous flooding, some families have been forced to flee to new communities. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii and a CPR Member Scholar, explained that while decisions to migrate are often multifaceted, families affected by extreme weather events are now considering climate change and environmental disaster in decisions about whether to leave their homes and communities.

Burkett added that slow-onset disasters, such as sea-level rise, and planned relocation are among several climate-related triggering scenarios that scholars focused on migration and displacement are studying. According …

Jan. 22, 2020 by Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick
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​It's no secret that President Trump has harassed staff at federal agencies since his first moment in office. Days after his inauguration, he blocked scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from talking to the press and the public. He famously cracked down on federal labor unions and chiseled early retirees of their expected pension benefits. Now he's requiring hundreds of staff from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Bureau of Land Management to leave their homes in the Washington area and move to offices out West or risk losing their jobs.

The administration has been particularly disdainful of the professional staff at the EPA – the people who work every day to make sure you can take a dip in the lake, fill your lungs on a morning walk, or drink from the tap without some nagging fear of …

Oct. 31, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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On Halloween, nothing seems spookier than a chance encounter with a ghost or goblin, except maybe a zombie. But there is something much more haunting that happens every day. Across the United States, an average of 137 people die daily from occupational diseases caused by on-the-job exposures to toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances. Nearly 200,000 more suffer from nonfatal illnesses annually.

This is no trick. There is no mystery here. In fact, in 2017, more people died from occupational diseases than from motor vehicle accidents or firearms. And that same year, 41 workers died from acute inhalation of a chemical on the job, according to data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) earlier this month. With such a high number of deaths, working with chemicals makes every day at work a fright fest.

Chemical exposures may not be the stuff of nightmares or …

Sept. 19, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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Tomorrow (September 20), I'm standing up for workers' rights by marching to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of the Global Climate Strike. I'll be walking in solidarity with the students and youth organizing the strike to spread the message that climate action is imperative.                      

Addressing the growing climate crisis and creating jobs are two necessary actions often pitted against each other, as if only one were possible at a time. That's a false choice, misleading rhetoric created by the fossil fuel industry and climate science deniers in Congress to slow down government action while continuing to pass the cost of dirty energy extraction onto families and communities – both in dollars and in health consequences. The reality is that we can have both good, green jobs and a healthy environment; thriving workers and a thriving planet go together.

Discussions about climate change often …

July 11, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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Asunción Valdivia, a 53-year old father and farmworker at a Giumarra vineyard in California, died after laboring to pick grapes for ten straight hours in 105-degree heat. When he collapsed, his employer told Valdivia’s son, Luis, who was also working in the field, to drive him to the hospital, but Valdivia died before they arrived.

In Valdivia’s memory, on July 10, Reps. Judy Chu and Raúl Grijalva paved the way to protecting outdoor and indoor workers across the nation from extreme heat by introducing the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R. 3668).

Valdivia is among 815 workers who died on the job because of extreme heat between 1992 and 2017, based on cases documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tens of thousands more workers have suffered illnesses and injuries from exposure to excessive heat. Extreme heat poses the greatest risk …

May 16, 2019 by Katie Tracy
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The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) guarantees workers the right to speak up about health and safety concerns in the workplace without reprisal. Specifically, Section 11(c) of the law provides workers the express right to report any subsequent employer retaliation against whistleblowers, such as demotion or firing, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Even with these protections, many workers fear retaliation if they report health and safety concerns. Workers who put their jobs on the line to make their voice heard deserve certainty that OSHA has their back if their employers violate the law and take adverse action against them. However, due to statutory barriers and resource constraints, OSHA's administration of 11(c) cases often leaves workers without any remedy.

On May 14, I delivered remarks at an OSHA stakeholder meeting on improving the agency's administration of retaliation cases filed under Section …

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 …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 3, 2020

Amazon vs. Its Workers

March 23, 2020

Safeguarding Workers and Our Economy from the Coronavirus -- Part II

March 23, 2020

Safeguarding Workers and Our Economy from the Coronavirus -- Part I

Feb. 5, 2020

Webinar Recap: What Climate Migration Means for Labor and Communities

Jan. 22, 2020

EPA Staff Clap Back at Trump with Workers' Bill of Rights

Oct. 31, 2019

Chemical Hazards Make Every Day at Work a Fright Fest

Sept. 19, 2019

On Strike for Climate Justice and Workers' Rights