Legislators can protect workers’ rights by partnering with AGs

September 9, 2020

The fight for worker’s rights rages on through the pandemic. Everyone deserves a safe workplace, yet the average American worker currently finds themselves in a troubling situation: risk their health or go to work. Millions of Americans are relying on elected officials to enact policies that will protect their rights and ensure their safety. Fortunately, workers are not the only ones calling for strong reforms such as paid sick leave, recovering stolen wages, and fighting misclassification of workers, amongst many others. 

A new EPI report documents the dramatic increase in the involvement of state attorneys general (AGs) in protecting workers’ rights in the past two years. The report recommends that state legislatures grant attorney general offices jurisdiction to enforce workplace rights laws. It also urges state AGs to expand their involvement in this area using a range of their existing powers and authority.

 “Many workers held precarious jobs and experienced high rates of wage theft and retaliation... In response to the dire challenges facing workers today, a number of state AGs have emerged as leaders in enforcing and protecting workers’ rights,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and a senior fellow at EPI. 

Unfortunately, several states have already taken steps to grant business liability protections from workers’ lawsuits during the COVID-19 crisis. These liability laws have dire consequences such as unsafe conditions for both workers and daily consumers. 

The State Innovation Exchange commissioned a recent poll surveying Americans in ten states and it revealed that voters strongly support policies that would provide immediate pocketbook relief for families and workers. Even more, results show that a majority of voters side with workplace safety requirements over liability protections for corporations (55% to 26%).

There are a number of common sense measures state and local officials should be considering to put worker and public health front and center. To see what else you can do to help keep workers safe, visit SiX’s Coronavirus Response Resources page.

For more on the Economic Policy Institute, see their report and press release.

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