Next Showdown in Congress: Protecting Workers vs. Protecting Employers in the Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on July 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pelosi discussed Supreme Court ruling that a New York prosecutor can obtain President Donald Trumps financial records, including tax returns. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Congressional leaders are squaring off over the next pandemic relief bill in a debate over whom Congress should step up to protect: front-line workers seeking more safeguards from the ravages of COVID-19 or beleaguered employers seeking relief from lawsuits.

Democrats want to enact an emergency standard meant to bolster access to protective gear for health care and other workers and to bar employers from retaliating against them for airing safety concerns.

Republicans seek immunity for employers from lawsuits related to the pandemic, an effort they say would give businesses the confidence to return to normal. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene later this month.

The debate reflects a deepening schism between the major political parties, with Democrats focused on protecting lives and Republicans focused on protecting livelihoods.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed frustration over efforts to pass an emergency worker-protection standard, which keeps running into GOP resistance.

“They’re saying ‘Let’s give immunity — no liability — for employers,’” Pelosi said. “We’re saying the best protection for the employer is to protect the workers.”

Nearly 98,000 health care workers have contracted the novel coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that the agency acknowledges is an undercount. KHN and The Guardian have identified more than 780 who have died and have told the personal stories of 139 of them.

The article was published at Next Showdown in Congress: Protecting Workers vs. Protecting Employers in the Pandemic.

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