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It’s Not Safe Out There

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The Center for Effective Government report says this: “several provisions of the OSH Act are too narrow and the remedies too weak to actually protect workers. . . The end result is that federal law simply does not protect workers who demand a safe and healthy workplace.”

OSHA workers themselves acknowledge that. A federal Government Accountability Office survey found less than 10 percent of OSHA inspectors believed an employee who filed a complaint would be protected from retaliation.

The Protecting America’s Workers Act would have remedied many of these problems. But Congress failed to pass it. President Obama asked for more money for the OSHA whistleblower program, but Congress refused to provide it.

Recognizing the problems on the federal level, the Center for Effective Government recommends state legislation to protect workers. And it notes that some states over the years have adopted such laws.

But just last week, another research organization, the Economic Policy Institute, issued a report detailing state legislative attacks on worker wages, rights and workplace standards over the past two years. The author, Gordon Lafer, writes that these destructive initiatives, sought by corporations, included measures undermining workplace safety protections. It doesn’t seem likely, then, that states will increase workers’ whistleblower rights and safeguards.

When employers face no sanctions for retaliating against workers who report hazards, it sends a powerful message to other workers to keep their mouths shut and accept the risk of death on the job. A country that sustains such a policy is soulless.