15 Jun 2021
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Workers, advocates hold Workers’ Day of Action,
mark three-month anniversary of Biden’s failed promise
With over 15,000 working age adults perished from
COVID since mid-March, new COVID health care-only standard is not enough
June 15, 2021 — Today, workers and advocates held rallies in major cities across the country and sent messages and photos through social media calling for strong, enforceable COVID-19 safety protections for all workers. The events were part of a nationwide Day of Action, marking the three-month anniversary of the deadline President Biden set to issue safety measures needed to protect all of the nation’s workers from COVID-19.
“Facing exposure to a deadly COVID-19 virus this year, essential workers organized to fight for safer workplaces. Now, health care workers who saved our lives are finally getting the nationwide protections they deserve to reduce the risk of getting exposed while at work,” said Al Vega, Director of Policy and Programs for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and board president of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “But we know it is not only health care workers who have suffered and died from the virus. The workers who have provided food, shelter and other essential services during this terrible pandemic — and many more who are now returning to work — all deserve strong, science-based protections at work from a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease.”
Last week, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued along-awaited COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The new standard applies only to health care settings, leaving out tens of millions of U.S. workers. Actions are taking place today in cities across the country, including New York, Boston, SanFrancisco, Syracuse, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.,as workers and advocates insist on strong, uniform rules to reduce the risk of a deadly pandemic that has claimed nearly600,000 lives in the United States. An unknown number of these deaths are related to workplace exposures; no public agency is tracking workplace exposures, infections and fatalities.
“It’s completely unacceptable that OSHA’s Emergency Standard only covers healthcare workers,” stated Workers Center of Central New York (CNY) Director Jessica Maxwell. “We completely agree that health workers need these protections, but why would the Biden Administration leave behind so many other essential workers?”
Erika, a Workers Center of CNY member, shared her experience working in a food packing plant, an industry hit hard by the pandemic: “We worked through the virus, we continued to work with what started as a headache and other symptoms,” Erika said. “Three weeks later the employer said all workers had to take COVID tests. The results came out positive.”
“In the three months since the President’s missed deadline for issuing worker safety measures, over 15,000 working age adults died from COVID-19,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Every one of those individuals had a family that was also at risk of COVID. Releasing an emergency standard three months late and just for health care workers is too little, too late.”
“COVID is not over and neither is our fight to save lives,” said Rosanna Rodriguez, co-executive director, Laundry Workers Center and board member of Food Chain Workers Alliance. “We’re going to continue to organize to demand safe conditions in our workplaces, and effective, strongly enforced safety rules from our government.”
The June 15th Workers’ Day of Action is being convened by National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), OXFAM, Massachusetts Council for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Last Mile, Public Citizen and Union of Concerned Scientists to call on President Biden to provide ALL workers with essential safety protections.