Proposed bill would mandate and enforce safety standards for those on the job

Stephon Johnson | 8/27/2020, midnight
One legislator wants to make sure that all workers are protected properly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office/From the NYC Mayor's Office Flickr page

One legislator wants to make sure that all workers are protected properly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris introduced the NY HERO (Health and Essential Rights) Act, which would require businesses to enforce safety standards to prevent the spread of the virus.

During a news conference Gianaris said that it’s the least that legislators could do to protect those who didn’t stop working when the pandemic hit.

“Too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit,” said Gianaris. “The New York HERO Act will honor their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job.”

In the bill the State Departments of Labor and Health are mandated to implement “minimum” standards for workplace safety, which are enforceable through fines. These include regulations involving protocols on testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls.

“Essential workers did not stay home. They braved the pandemic and showed up, taking great risk to their own lives and the lives of their families,” stated UFCW 2013 President Louis Mark Carotenuto. “To require Enforceable Safety & Health Standards for these brave essential workers is simply a must...”

He continued, “There should be no struggle here on the part of legislators to recognize that at a time when we needed workers to step up, they did so.”

“Workers of color have borne the brunt of COVID-19 for America,” added Teamsters Local 813 President Sean T. Campbell. “Our communities have done the majority of essential jobs that allowed others to remain at home, and we have died from the disease at far higher rates. While the federal government does nothing for these workers, one way New York can show that Black Lives Matter is by passing legislation to give workers every protection they need to stay safe from a second wave of COVID-19.”

The NY HERO Act gives workers the ability to monitor and report any violations to workplace health and safety committees thereby giving workers the power to voice their complaints without fear of losing their job.

Christina, a vineyard worker in Onondaga County, said the lack of response from her employer after one of her co-workers contracted the coronavirus is why she throws her support behind this bill.

“In April, my colleagues fell ill with COVID-19 and after this my colleagues and I quarantined,” Christina said. “My boss never gave us any training at any time on how to take care of ourselves during the pandemic, or how to prevent COVID-19. He simply posted a sign on the bathroom explaining that if we were sick we should not come to work.

“What I want is for employers to establish social distancing in workplaces because our health is important,” Christina continued. “We also need the support of the assemblymen, senators, and the governor to pass legislation to protect all of us farm workers.”