Kennedy Launches "Protecting America's Workers" Act

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is introducing the Protecting America's Workers Act on April 28, Workers Memorial Day, to expand the Occupational Safety and Health Act's coverage to 8.4 million of public- and private-sector workers not covered by the act.

The bill also strengthens penalties for willful employer violations, expands the public's right to know, protects whistle-blowers and requires employers to provide safety equipment.

"On Workers' Memorial Day, we remember those who have died or been injured on the job in the past year. We renew our commitment to them and their families to do all we can to end the unsafe and unhealthy conditions that still plague so many workplaces across America," said Kennedy.

He noted that while the country has made significant progress in protecting worker safety since 1970, when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed, "there is still a tremendous amount to be done."

"We have a battle before us," said Kennedy. "For as we know, too many companies are doing too little to deal with this crisis. They blatantly ignore the laws, but still they do not face jail time even when their actions or lack of action kills employees who work for them. Criminal penalties are so low that prosecutors are reluctant to pursue these cases."

He said he supports Sen. Jon Corzine's, D-N.J., bill, the Wrongful Death Accountability Act. The bill imposes jail time of up to 10 years, instead of the six months provided under current law, on employers whose blatant violation of safety laws leads to a worker's death.

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