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ACLU and labor rights groups allege that Iowa OSHA not protecting workers; file complaint

Posted at 4:46 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 12:05:38-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The ACLU of Iowa announced today that it filed a complaint, along with labor and civil rights groups, alleging that Iowa OSHA "has been grossly negligent in protecting Iowa workers, not even following its own rules."

OSHA, which stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a federal agency that oversees and enforces workplace safety.

In an online press conference, ACLU of Iowa legal director, Rita Bettis Austen told reporters that Iowa is one of only a handful of states which administers its own regional agency.

Representing workers in meatpacking, the dairy industry, construction, transportation, health care facilities, nursing homes, and other industries, the ACLU and other advocacy organizations are filing the formal complaint with the federal OSHA office in Kansas City.

In her comments, Bettis also:

  • Alleged systemic and widespread failure by Iowa OSHA to meet its statutory duty to protect the safe and healthful working conditions of Iowa workers.
  • Stated that people of color, immigrants and refugees are disproportionately affected by lapses in workplace safety.
  • Alleged that Iowa OSHA has failed to respond to pandemic-related complaints, but that the failures in enforcement pre-date COVID.

In addition to ACLU representatives, other press conference participants included Joe Henry from the League of United Latin American Citizens; Charlie Wishman from Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Alejandro Murguia-Ortiz from American Friends Service Committee – Iowa and Iowa Justice for our Neighbors; Dylan Parker from the Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting.

“When an infected worker comes down with COVID it doesn’t stay in the workplace,” said Wishman. “Worker health is community health.”

Henry told reporters, “When Iowa OSHA doesn’t do its job, it impacts all Iowans.”

Read the entire complaint about Iowa OSHA below.