Monday, November 29

Included in the Covid-19 stimulus package? Protect companies from liability | David Sirota and Julia Rock | Opinion


IIn early October, Harvard researchers an alarm sounded– Released a report showing a pattern of coronavirus deaths increasing shortly after workers submitted requests for workplace safety assistance from the US Department of Labor. The conclusion was clear: Workers are asking desperately for the government to help protect them from a deadly pandemic, the government has not responded and many workers have subsequently died preventable.

Today, just over a month after the study was published, the federal government is finally responding: bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers have announced legislation to protect corporations from lawsuits when their lax safety standards kill more workers.

In practice, the legislation, which is included in a larger Covid aid package, is a holiday season gift for corporate donors: it would strip frontline workers of the last remaining legal tool to protect themselves in the workplace. workplace, at the same time as The unemployment system is designed to financially punish workers if they refuse to return to unsafe workplaces during the pandemic.

Legislation comes not only when workers continue to die, but also 7-9% of the total Covid-19 death count are “take home” infections attributed to employees who unknowingly pass the disease on to family and friends.

At the urging of corporate lobbyists, the Liability Shield Initiative spread like a virus in America’s political system: like the Daily Poster reported for the first time, it passed through state legislatures across the country after the New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, responded to a massive Covid-19 death in nursing homes by shielding nursing home executives from lawsuits, after a healthcare lobby group funneled $ 1 million into its political machine.

Senate Republicans in Washington then copied legislation from Cuomo’s liability shield and he hit it word for word in his latest Covid-19 stimulus proposal in July.

Unable to pass that federal liability protection legislation on its own, lawmakers from both parties have now come together in a huge post-election bipartisan show of unity to help their corporate donors create a hostage situation that looks like something out of a movie by dystopian science fiction: Your proposal preaches desperately needed and long-needed unemployment assistance on the condition that companies receive a free jail break card when their profit-maximizing business practices extinguish the life of employees.

Democratic lawmakers’ support for the liability shield legislation comes after the same healthcare lobby group that drafted the New York law has dumped more than $ 11 million in the House and Senate Democratic Super Pacs.

The party, however, does not seem to want its own voters to know the details of the deal it is closing with the Republican party: In a comical attempt at bait and switch, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin promoted legislation as the only financial aid for communities, leaving aside the fact that it includes a liability shield for corporations.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the few Democratic legislators who highlighted what is really happening. Last week, she tweeted: “If you want to know why Covid-19 relief is blocked in Congress, a key reason is that Republicans are demanding legal immunity for corporations so they can expose their workers to Covid without repercussions.”

The bipartisan initiative aims to obscure their level of depravity of Dr. Evil by superficially describing the liability shield as merely temporary. But that seems like a ruse, as noted by private equity mogul and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who said The federal Covid-19 liability shield provision “provides a temporary suspension of any liability-related lawsuit, at the state or federal level, associated with Covid-19, giving states sufficient time to implement their own protections.”

Although the full legislative language has not been released, the goal seems clear: to give state legislatures more time to permanently prevent workers from suing employers who put them in danger, and permanently block their families from pursuing such lawsuits when workers die.

In particular, lawmakers who announced the proposal failed to point to a series of frivolous wrongful death lawsuits that corporations have been warning about as a rationale for the liability shield. Instead, as the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense recently noted, “of more than 4,100 Lawsuits related to Covid-19 filed, only 75 are for wrongful death or injuries as a result of getting sick on the job. Two-thirds fall into three categories: insurance disputes, prison cases, and civil rights cases, including challenging refuge-in-place orders. “

The liability shield legislation is not an isolated cause; it must be understood as the culmination of a much larger and long-term campaign to eliminate the countervailing force and to give capital supreme power over labor.

During the last decades, the government, through laws and judicial decisions, has weakened unions, who have used collective bargaining to protect workers’ rights; limited class action lawsuits Y punitive damages, which are designed to punish business misconduct; Y gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha), which is supposed to enforce weak workplace safety laws that are still in effect.

Now come liability shields, washed like a necessary Covid-19 balm, but actually designed to permanently remove the last remaining deterrent to corporate abuse.

Large employers already knew that a limping Osha would give them, at most, the equivalent of a parking ticket for killing workers. In fact, the agency has rejected to even issue formal safety standards during the outbreak, a stance designed to make it harder to hold corporations accountable for any unsafe practices. The situation is now so unregulated and bleak that in one situation, corporate managers presumably betting on the number of deaths from Covid-19 that would occur in a meat packing plant.

With liability shields, those same employers will know that they can get away with all kinds of cost cuts and corner cuts that put workers in danger and denies they have access to basic protective equipment.

In other words, corporations will know they can increase the Covid-19 body count even further, and they won’t even have to worry about being called into a courtroom to answer for their crimes.

  • This story was reported by David Sirota and Julia Rock for The daily poster.

  • David Sirota is a columnist for The Guardian US and an award-winning investigative journalist. He is general editor at Jacobin and founder of The daily poster. He served as a speechwriter for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

  • Julia Rock is a freelance journalist




www.theguardian.com

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