For several weeks, President Trump has been playing on the distress of millions of us who have lost our jobs in order to rev up support for re-opening businesses so that the owners can start making profits again. Forcing people back to work now means that tens of thousands of more people will die unnecessarily. The government and the corporations certainly know this. So Trump wants to pass a law that gives immunity from lawsuits to any business that exposes workers or customers to preventable risks. This amounts to giving corporations a license to kill!
Essential workers have died because businesses decided not to give out the necessary PPE, and this has been especially dangerous in the health care setting. Hospital and nursing home owners are especially eager to prevent lawsuits by patients and their families. Workers already have few legal remedies when injured or ill because their bosses compelled them to work in unsafe conditions; this proposed law would eliminate these lawsuits entirely for the duration of the pandemic.
Trump and the Republican leaders in the Senate say passage of amnesty for reckless corporations is a non-negotiable precondition to any legislation addressing the pandemic, such as boosting funds for unemployment benefits that are about to run out in some states. Right now the Democrats are protesting loudly against the proposal, but corporate immunity will probably pass after being tweaked to make it look better. Whatever happens, this proposal is both a demonstration of how ruthlessly capitalists prioritize profits above everything, and a warning that we can only rely on our own organized power to protect ourselves, because the political system won’t.
Featured image credit: Shealah Craighead