Worker Advocacy Groups File Federal Complaint Against Iowa OSHA
Eight worker advocacy groups have filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about a lack of workplace safety in Iowa.
The eight groups requested a federal investigation of what they said is Iowa OSHA’s failure to respond to workplace safety complaints. Although the Complaint About State Program Administration (CASPA) addresses issues with Iowa OSHA from the past, the groups said conditions have worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) signed on to the complaint, citing the employees hardest hit by unsafe workplace conditions are from the Latino community. LULAC state political director Joe Henry said this formal complaint comes three days after a meat plant worker died of COVID-19.
“Instead of being what we would consider essential, they have been treated as expendable,” Henry said.
The other organizations include the ACLU of Iowa, the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, the American Friends Service Committee, Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Iowa Federation of Labor ALF-CIO.
They specifically cite eight worksites with large immigrant workforces. The sites include food processing plants, long-term care centers, and a credit union.
Charlie Wishman, the president of the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, said the conditions for these workers affect whole communities.
“When Iowa workers are exposed to COVID-19, it doesn’t just threaten the health of their coworkers, it threatens the health of their families, of their friends, everyone they love and everyone they come in contact with,” Wishman said. “Simply put, worker health is community health.”
- April: Iowa Premium Beef, Tama County released an incorrect number of infected employees.
- OSHA fine of $1914
- The plant negotiated the fine down to $957
- Alejandro Murguia Ortiz with American Friends Service Committee in Iowa:
- “There’s no acknowledgement that the damage was on human lives as opposed to just a process that they have."
- This was the first fine regulators have issued to an Iowa meatpacking plant due to an issue as a result from COVID-19.
Last month, Iowa OSHA received 148 COVID-19 related complaints and five resulted in a following investigation. Workplace fatality rates in Iowa are currently 40 percent higher than the national average.
Henry said it is difficult for the workers to even file the complaints due to language barriers and access to technology.
The groups said they have reached out to state lawmakers and Gov. Kim Reynolds but have not yet received a response.
Federal OSHA does not require state administrations to offer more health and safety guidelines, it only requires they do not offer less than the national level.