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National COSH Announces 2020 “Dirty Dozen” Employers

Thursday, April 23, 2020
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, roger@nationalcosh.org, 734.645.0535

National COSH Announces 2020
“Dirty Dozen” Employers

Special Coronavirus edition spotlights the “other NRA” for fight
against paid sick leave;  Victoria’s Secret for harassment, failure to
protect against COVID-19, with a worker death at fashion chain
supplier Voyant Beauty; and other hazardous workplaces

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced today “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2020, highlighting companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices. The Dirty Dozen 2020 – Special Coronavirus Edition focuses on employers – and employer associations – who have failed to protect workers against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as preventable hazards across a range of industries and occupations.
 
“Our current public health crisis has demonstrated, more clearly than ever, that worker health cannot be separated from public health,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of National COSH. “Infectious diseases and other unsafe working conditions do not stay put in any one workplace or building but can spread to families, communities and the public at large.”

Dirty Dozen employers this year include the National Restaurant Association – the “other NRA” –cited for its years-long battle against paid sick leave. In 2014, the NRA warned its members that “Paid Sick Leave Laws Spread Like the Flu.”

Also cited this year is fashion retailer Victoria’s Secret and its supplier Voyant Beauty. In February, the New York Times reported a culture of misogyny and harassment at the fashion firm. Female workers at Voyant Beauty, which supplies lotions and other products to Victoria’s Secret and other firms, say managers have demanded sexual favors in exchange for better job assignments.

Voyant, which makes hand sanitizer, has continued to operate a Chicago-area factory during the current pandemic, but failed to observe social distancing and other protective measures. Voyant worker Norma Martinez, 43 years old and a mother of two, died on April 13 after exposure to COVID-19.
 
The complete “Dirty Dozen” for 2020, in alphabetical order, are:


The American Hospital Association: Fighting against coronavirus protections for health care workers.
Chipotle: Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant chain still violates local paid sick leave laws and its own policies.
Eulen America: Months after OSHA fines, workers are still exposed to infectious disease risk of blood-borne pathogens and other hazards.
Fieldale Farms: Preventable deaths and injuries – and a line speed-up hazard – at this poultry producer.
Hard Rock Café International/ 1031 Canal Development LLC/Citadel Building/Heaslip Engineering and 10 subcontractors: Three workers dead; dozens injured; and a witness deported.
Lincoln Recycling Services: Three worker deaths since 2016.
The National Restaurant Association: Lobbying against paid sick leave for millions of workers.
Sea Watch International: Three workers dead – but company ignored warnings and declined safety training.
SGL Constructors – Skanska USA, Granite Construction, Lane Construction: Five workers dead on a massive highway project.
Tennessee Valley Authority/Jacobs Engineering: 41 workers dead, 400 are sick after bungled clean-up of toxic coal ash.
Trader Joe’s: One fatality – so far – as company fights its own workforce and stores stay open despite confirmed COVID-19 exposures.
Victoria’s Secret/L Brands/Voyant Beauty: Top executives tolerate a culture of misogyny and harassment; a Chicago-area supplier allows harassment and fails to prevent against COVID-19. One worker is dead so far.

Dishonorable Mention: 

Amazon: Six fatalities, hundreds of injuries due to breakneck pace of next-day delivery; at least one dead from COVID-19 .
Montefiore Hospital – Moses Campus: Nurses say hospital hasn’t protected workers and patients from the spread of COVID-19.
Smithfield Foods: The worst COVID-19 hot spot in the nation at Sioux Falls, SD plant. Nearly 900 confirmed cases, at least one worker has died.
Tyson Foods: Company responds slowly to COVID-19; three dead in a Camilla, GA poultry plant.

“I’ve seen co-workers, even managers, come into work when they are sick and should be at home,” said Horacio Ruiz, a server at the Capital Grille in Pittsburgh and a member of ROC United. “Our city council passed a paid sick leave law five years ago, but the state affiliate of the National Restaurant Association fought us in court, so it didn’t go into effect until March of this year. If the restaurant owners didn’t fight us for so long, workers in Pittsburgh would have had more paid sick leave credit when this pandemic began.”

“Top executives have tolerated a culture of misogyny harassment at Victoria’s Secret for many years,” said Sara Ziff, executive director of the Model Alliance. “Sadly, it’s no surprise the company also allows mistreatment of workers throughout its supply chain. After the tragic and preventable death of Norma Martinez, factory workers and fashion models are more committed than ever to working together, so we can win respect and safe working conditions for everyone who produces and promotes Victoria’s Secret products.”

“Safety meetings were a joke,” said Pedro Mendez, a construction worker on the Interstate-4 construction project in Orlando, Florida, where five workers have died on the job since 2016. Mendez worked for Shelby Erectors, a subcontract to SGL Constructors, made up of Skanska USA, Granite Construction and Lane Construction. “Personal protective equipment was not supplied by Shelby. I would have to bring water, gloves and glasses for myself and my co-workers.”

Data presented in the National COSH “Dirty Dozen” report show that 5,250 U.S. workers died from workplace trauma in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available from the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure represents an 8.9 percent increase from 2014 – and fatalities are rising even faster among communities of color. During that same period, workplace deaths of Latinx worker rose by 19.5 percent and by 29.5 percent for African American workers.

“Tragically, the higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19 we are seeing in Latinx and African American communities track the higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities we see in the same populations in the workplace,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH “Discrimination in housing, health care and employment is not only illegal and unfair. It’s deadly.”

In addition to deaths from workplace trauma more than 95,000 U.S. workers are projected to die each year from cancers, respiratory and circulatory diseases and other illnesses associated with long-term exposure in the workplace.

The “Dirty Dozen 2020” report is available on the National COSH website here.
A "Dirty Dozen 2020" video is available here.

The report is released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week. This global event remembers workers who lost their lives on the job and their families, as well as recognize those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. A listing of virtual Workers’ Memorial Week events is available on the National COSH website.

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook and @NationalCOSH on Twitter