25 Organizations Launch New Campaign Calling on Congress to Protect Frontline Workers Against Employer Retaliation

Posted May 20, 2020, 11:42 AM

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 20th, 2020
CONTACT: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, press@fightforthefure.org

A coalition of 25 racial justice, civil liberties, and worker advocacy organizations, launched StopSilencingWorkers.org, a campaign calling on lawmakers to pass federal legislation to protect workers from employer retaliation. Frontline workers raising health and safety concerns are our greatest defense against threats to public health. 

Congress must stop corporations like Amazon from retaliating against workers for blowing the whistle on unsafe corporate policies. Whistleblower protections are within the Essential Workers Bill of Rights put forward by Representative Ro Khanna and Senator Warren, and we believe new legislation is critical to upholding this right.

The participating organizations, with millions of members between them, will mobilize supporters to call and email lawmakers over the next several weeks. These organizations -Action Center on Race and the Economy, Athena Coalition, The Awood Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Center for Popular Democracy, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, Color of Change, Daily Kos, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Jobs With Justice, Just Futures Law, Make the Road New York, MediaJustice, MPower Change, National Employment Law Project, New York Communities for Change, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Open Markets Institute, Partnership for Working Families, PeoplesHub, RYSE Center, Secure Justice, United for Respect, and Whistleblower & Source Protection Program at ExposeFacts- request Congress establish the following protections:

  • Require employers to demonstrate just cause for all terminations. This should include explicit just cause protections for workers that refuse to work in unsafe conditions.
  • Allow workers to enforce their rights through a private right of action and whistleblower enforcement mechanisms to collect fines on behalf of all impacted workers and the government.
  • Establish greater privacy protections to restrict the use of surveillance technology in the workplace to ensure workers can freely exercise their right to organize and speak out, without fear of retaliation. 
  • Set up a taskforce for essential workers to have a role in setting health and safety requirements at the federal level and within their workplaces. 

“Workers being able to speak out is key for a healthy democracy and safe society. Companies, like Amazon, firing frontline workers for exposing unsafe conditions is exactly why we have this right.” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. “ Workers are our first line of defense against corruption, abuse, and an essential part of fighting COVID-19. They must feel safe in alerting the public about dangerous threats as they appear. Congress must act now. Lawmakers need to pass legislation to protect frontline workers speaking out for worker and public health.”

COVID-19 has exposed the pre-existing power imbalance that enables corporations to retaliate against workers without impunity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon fired six employees who advocated for workplace health and safety standards in line with Center for Disease Control pandemic guidelines. All of the warehouse workers fired are black. This further highlights the compounding inequalities that can be exploited without strong regulatory policies and enforcement.

To date, the technology giant has not been held accountable for their actions. Meanwhile, warehouse workers across the country continue to protest and hold call outs to bring attention to threats workers face in Amazon’s warehouses and the retaliatory firings. 

Aside from the firings, Amazon has expanded their surveillance network to monitor employees. Surveillance and the threat of subsequent disciplinary actions will inhibit workers from speaking out. Without frontline workers sounding the alarm, the public at large faces greater risk and threat of infection. 

We need Congress to take immediate action to protect public health by ensuring workers are safe to speak out and organize in the workplace without fear of employer retaliation. 

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