Scott to Biden Administration: The Honor System Does Not Protect Workers

May 18, 2021
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) released the following statement calling for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to do its job to protect workers from COVID-19. National Nurses United and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union released statements citing concerns with the impact of CDC’s new guidance on workers.

“One clear lesson from the last 16 months is that the honor system does not protect workers from COVID-19 infections. OSHA’s decision to issue only voluntary workplace safety guidance throughout the pandemic – which employers could choose to adopt or ignore – resulted in deadly infection outbreaks in health care facilities, meatpacking plants, grocery stores, warehouses, prisons, and many other workplaces across the country. 

“Nurses and essential food and retail workers are expressing serious concerns that the CDC’s new guidance on masks, coupled with the Biden Administration’s failure to issue an enforceable workplace safety standard, is once again forcing workers to rely on an honor system that has been a tragic failure. As National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo recently said: ‘This lack of protection compounds the dangers that nurses and other essential workers continue to face on the job.’ 

“With vaccination rates among working-age Americans below 50 percent, and vaccination rates for Black and Brown people lagging far behind the overall population, these workers are raising legitimate questions about what the Administration is doing to make workplaces safer for those who have already suffered the greatest harm. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone has called upon the nation’s leaders to ‘clarify how this new policy will be implemented, how essential workers will be protected, and how these workers will protect the communities they serve.’ These questions deserve urgent and complete answers. 

“For almost a year and a half, I have been asking OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard that secures safe workplaces for America’s frontline workers. The Biden Administration has already missed its own March 15 deadline for OSHA to issue this standard, and it is dragging its feet on a review process that has no end in sight. 

“Throughout the pandemic, the federal response has treated workers’ health and safety as an inconvenience rather than a top priority. That approach has cost people their lives. The Biden Administration must immediately follow through on its promise to issue an enforceable workplace safety standard and clearly articulate its strategy to protect workers.” 

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