Wisconsin has a long, proud tradition of workers standing up for their rights, stretching all the way back to the mid-19th century when Milwaukee’s bricklayers and carpenters formed unions. Those early labor organizations fought for better pay, safer workplaces and for compensation for injured workers.
Those battles continue today, as evidenced in tense exchanges and more between the AFL-CIO and the Department of Labor over COVID-19 safety in the workplace. The union recently filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to force OSHA to issue new standards for infectious diseases.
The union’s president labeled OSHA’s response to the virus and worker safety as “delinquent, delayed, disorganized, chaotic and totally inadequate.”
Loren Sweatt, a deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, said the agency’s informal safety guidelines for employees in nursing homes, meatpacking plants, grocery stores, ride-share services and others was sufficient, when considered in combination with existing enforcement policies and actions. Many critics point to widely publicized outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes and meatpacking facilities as evidence that the AFL-CIO’s characterization is correct.
The union’s petition of mandamus asked the appeals court to issue emergency temporary standards to control workplace exposures to infectious diseases.
In its suit, the union said “that in the face of a global health emergency causing more deaths in less time than any other workplace crisis OSHA has faced in its fifty-year existence, OSHA’s refusal to issue an ETS constitutes an abuse of agency discretion so blatant and of ‘such magnitude’ as to amount to a clear ‘abdication of statutory responsibility.’”
The federal agency has been ordered to issue a response by the end of next week.
If you have had a virus-related or other workers’ compensation claim denied, contact a Milwaukee attorney experienced in waging effective workers’ comp appeals.