Washington DC – In a strongly worded letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka stated that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been “missing in action” in their role to protect workers.
“Since this crisis began, the Department of Labor and federal government have failed to meet their obligation and duty to protect workers; the government’s response has been delinquent, delayed, disorganized, chaotic and totally inadequate,” Trumka said.
Trumka’s communication to the DOL included a listed of more than 300 union members who have died of COVID-19 infections. With the toll of deaths rising, the AFL-CIO head attacked the department’s record on workplace safety.
“Millions of private and public sector workers in health care, emergency services, corrections, transportation, food processing, retail, grocery, warehousing, mining, manufacturing, construction and other industries face exposure to COVID-19 on the job; tens of thousands have been infected and hundreds have died,” Trumka said.
An OSHA memorandum on April 10, 2020 suspended the requirement for employers to identify and record work-related COVID-19 infections for most essential workers. On April 13 an OSHA COVID-19 enforcement plan stated that all worker complaints from non-health care settings would be treated as informal, without workplace inspections or citations.
“Instead of taking action to strengthen worker safety protections, the U.S. Department of Labor has rolled back and weakened protections,” said Trumka.
According to the Department of Labor, OSHA has handled 2,223 general complaints, 699 whistleblower complaints and 98 investigations related to COVID-19.