I am indebted to Justin Jones and all those who join him on their 59th day at Ida B. Wells Plaza, bringing light to many social injustices that might never be known otherwise. I am grateful to know this young man who has put Divinity School at Vanderbilt on hold to witness to God’s call for justice.
Today, he is highlighting our reconvened state lawmakers who meet to consider legislation around the right to protest as well as limiting liability for businesses and corporations around issues of Covid in the workplace.
We need to be paying close attention to both, as they represent rights of Americans that are long reaching. For several weeks we have wondered why we aren’t hearing from OSHA, our federal agency tasked with setting and enforcing standards to assure safe and healthful conditions in the work place. Many of us have written compliance manuals around OSHA’s guidelines! Over the years, those guidelines have been necessarily
fluid and adjusted to new information.
So, Covid does not require a completely unknown standard, though ongoing information and research will add to the standards for a safe workplace as time goes on. That has always been the case with OSHA guidelines. Nothing new.
Limiting liability for American (or Tennessee) employers does not protect workers who have been exposed to this virus at work, indeed became ill, at home or hospitalized on a ventilator, etc. Legislation that denies legal recourse for workers who worked without standards in place or standards that weren’t followed or standards
that required change and weren’t changed, is unthinkable!
Going forward, these workers have no idea the long term effects of this disease, how it will affect their return to work, their financial futures and the like. OSHA guidelines are to be written on behalf of workers, not corporations or businesses. If workers were protected to the fullness of known standards at the time, that sets
the benchmark and protects employers. If the known standards at the time of infection were not identified and followed,workers have a right to legal action. Think medical workers without adequate PPE throughout this pandemic (there were many options not taken to provide the numbers and quickly) meatpackers, grocery workers who were (and still are) exposed by unmasked customers who feel free to exercise their “rights,” restaurant workers and on and on. Masks and the like should not require a belated Mayor’s mandate; they should be part of the safety requirement required by OSHA. Enforcement would be at the behest of the employer as I have heard has been done well, since the beginning, by Costco, Whole Foods, Fresh Market. Hospitals protected workers as well as patients with a no visitors policy…from the beginning.
Allowing for no liability at the employer level will ask for lowered standards, if any, allowing workers to return to the workplace when they should be quarantined or home recovering. It is an invitation to the spread of the virus because of lack of accountability.
I have been meaning to write about this for some time and fully realize few will read or agree, or perhaps care. These decisions will affect many, many people down the line. People who likely worked so we might have resources, food and health care at their expense. It may be your husband or wife, your son or daughter, etc.
Call your lawmakers, make your voice heard. If you don’t know your representatives’ numbers, just google!