In April 2019, Republican State Rep Anthony Kern (LD-20) used his power as chair of the Arizona House Rules Committee to kill legislation protecting workers who reported unsafe working conditions, laying the groundwork for dire conditions for Arizona workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
A year later, as coronavirus cases spread dramatically through Arizona, instead of rectifying his move to deny workers safety protections, Rep. Kern doubled-down and advanced a bill that would shield employers from punishment when employees were exposed to unsafe conditions amidst the pandemic.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no existing law to protect workers in Arizona from being fired for refusing to return to a workplace if they reported unsafe or unhealthy conditions. In April 2019, a bill, HB 2156, designed to institute legal protections for workers who reported unsafe conditions, was brought to a vote in the Arizona House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. Kern.
As chair of the committee, Rep. Kern was the deciding factor in allowing the bill to die, potentially leaving thousands of Arizona workers vulnerable to dramatically unsafe conditions, or risk being fired and losing their health insurance.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic began, and instead of protecting workers, Rep. Kern sought to protect their employers.
As Arizona was recording some of the highest coronavirus cases in the country, Rep. Kern voted in favor of and helped pass a bill out of the House Rules Committee that would provide legal protections and shield businesses from liability when they violated safety orders and put their employees at risk.
Rep. Kern advanced this legislation as workers across Arizona, including state employees and even frontline workers such as nursing home staff, were reporting unsafe working conditions or being fired for raising concerns over their safety amidst one of the deadliest pandemics in U.S. history.
In November, Rep. Kern will seek reelection support from the thousands of Arizonans in his district whose lives he has deliberately put on the line.