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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor blasting President Trump and his administration for failing to implement and enforce COVID-19 safety standards and to keep workers safe amid an unprecedented public health crisis while letting corporations off the hook when they put workers’ health at risk. Last week, the Trump administration fined Smithfield Foods – a multibillion dollar corporation owned by the Chinese communist government – $13,000, after nearly 1,300 workers got sick and four workers died at one plant. That is a paltry $10 per infected worker.
In April, due to President Trump’s refusal to issue an emergency temporary standard, Brown joined colleagues in introducing legislation to protect U.S. workers from COVID-19 in response to disturbing, widespread reports of unsafe workplaces leading to preventable illnesses and deaths.
In August, Brown joined his colleagues in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding reports that workers of color face disproportionate acts of retaliation when reporting workplace concerns related to COVID-19.
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery can be found below:
Every day the Americans we serve are living with the horrific consequences of President Trump’s leadership failures.
They’ve lost their jobs and their small businesses, they’ve lost their sense of security and their faith in their own government – and in nearly 200,000 American families, they’ve lost a loved one.
All because President Trump has failed to get this pandemic under control, and he’s failed to protect American workers.
President Trump’s Administration has gotten more than 8,000 complaints about unsafe workplaces since the start of this pandemic.
This summer we had President Trump’s corporate lawyer Secretary of Labor Scalia before the Finance Committee and I asked him, out of the thousands of workers who’ve come to you for help, how many in-person inspections of workplaces have you done?
The answer was zero.
Zero inspections, after six months of Americans reporting to work in a pandemic, and over 8,000 complaints.
Zero inspections to make sure corporations are giving workers the protective equipment and the other safety protocols they need.
I demanded Secretary Scalia follow up and tell us about any inspections they conducted and what the results of those inspections were.
They said they couldn’t get that information.
And guess how many fines they’ve issued?
As far as we know, President Trump’s Administration has only issued five fines, out of more than 8,000 workers complaining that their employers are failing to protect them.
Last week they finally fined Smithfield – a multibillion dollar corporation owned by the Chinese communist government – $13,000, after nearly 1,300 workers got sick at just one plant, and four people died.
Let’s do the math – that amounts to $10 for each worker who got sick.
We’re talking about a multibillion dollar corporation – the idea that $10 a worker will stop these guys from continuing to abuse their workers is absurd.
About a third of Smithfield’s workers at this plant got sick. Clearly they were not putting all of their vast resources to work to protect the workers who make their company successful.
President Trump could crack down on these corporations.
He could mobilize American manufacturers to get every American worker the masks and protective equipment they need.
He could issue an OSHA temporary standard that would provide clear, enforceable requirements for keeping workers safe.
He could stand up for workers – but he won’t.
It’s always the same story with President Trump:
He wants to protect the big guys – workers’ health and workers’ safety be damned.
Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 promising he would look out for workers – he went all over Ohio and all over the Midwest telling workers he’d take care of them, he’d fight for them.
Now we know how much their health and their lives are worth to him – less than ten bucks.
He has betrayed these workers over and over and over:
• from his corporate tax cuts
• to taking away overtime pay
• to stacking the courts with corporate lawyers
• to his busting unions
• to his failure to fight for autoworkers and their jobs,
• all the way to today.
The stock market has recovered since the spring, so Donald Trump has stopped even pretending to care about getting this pandemic under control.
Corporations are doing just fine – never mind the workers who are getting sick. Never mind the workers who go home every night worried they’ll infect their families.
American workers are sick of it.
They’re tired of the empty promises
They’re tired of the betrayals.
They’re tired of feeling like no one is on their side.
We in this body can lead where the president has failed.
We could pass a bill forcing him to issue an OSHA temporary standard to protect people on the job.
And we could pass Pandemic Premium Pay, to actually pay the millions of essential workers for putting their health and their lives on the line to serve us.
It’s time for us to step up and fight for the people who make this country work.