This week, the ACLU of Iowa and seven other groups filed a formal administrative complaint, called a CASPA, with the federal OSHA to compel Iowa OSHA to do its job: protect the lives of workers.
In a 114-page document, we detailed Iowa OSHA's failure to adequately respond to allegation after allegation filed by Iowa workers about being required to go into work while actively ill with COVID-19, lack of social distancing and masks, inadequate sanitizing of work areas, and inadequate testing.
Our CASPA documents how 148 complaints related to COVID-19 were made in recent months – many of these complaints that by OSHA's own rules should have warranted an on-site visit. Yet only five of those complaints resulted in an inspection. All the others were closed with no inspection at all.
"Our investigation clearly documented that Iowa OSHA is not doing its job," said Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director. "Instead of the required on-site visit in response to signed worker complaints about serious safety and health concerns, as well as complaints about imminent dangers, it too often simply sent a letter to the company, received a letter back, and closed the case. Workers are dying, and Iowa OSHA is doing very little to prevent that."
Representing the rights of workers in meatpacking, the dairy industry, construction, transportation, health care facilities, nursing homes, and other industries, the CASPA was filed by the ACLU of Iowa, American Friends Service Committee Iowa, Forward Latino, Iowa AFL-CIO, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI), Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors (Iowa JFON), the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting (IIIFFC).
Further, the CASPA documents that Iowa OSHA's history of not adequately investigating serious and life-threatening work conditions long before the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
Tragically, it's the most vulnerable communities that are suffering the most. Those hardest-hit by COVID-19 in the workplace have been immigrants, Black, and Latinx Iowans, who fill front-line and essential worker roles that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
No one should have to choose between their job and their health, or in some cases, their life. But in Iowa, thousands of workers have had to do that and Iowa OSHA is choosing to look away.
ACLU of Iowa
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