Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took the treasury secretary to task on Tuesday for the Trump administration’s efforts to keep facilities such as slaughterhouses open without sufficient worker protections.
“How many workers will die if we send people back to work without the protections they need, Mr. Secretary?” the senator asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, contrasting the point with Mnuchin’s earlier line that the country risked “permanent economic damage” due to business closures.
The administration doesn’t “intend to send anybody back to work without the protections,” Mnuchin responded, adding that he “couldn’t be more proud” of the medical advice the administration was receiving.
Brown kept pressing. There’s no national program to provide for worker safety with regard to COVID-19, he pointed out, and while the President signed an order declaring meatpacking plants “critical infrastructure,” he did not insist on slowing down processing lines or ensuring that workers have protective equipment.
(Counties with slaughterhouses host many of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. Trump’s order gave legal liability protections to plant owners without requiring heightened safety measures for workers.)
“How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by a thousand points?” Brown asked.
“No workers should give their lives to do that,” Mnuchin answered, before protesting Brown’s “unfair” characterization.
The administration had provided “enormous” amounts of equipment, Mnuchin asserted, and done a “terrific job.”
Brown cut off the “political speech,” moving onto another question.
Sherrod Brown: "How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by a thousand points?" pic.twitter.com/L3QRKUZhKN
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) May 19, 2020