May 27, 2021
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
Hon. Roberta Reardon
New York State Department of Labor
Hon. Howard Zucker, M.D., J.D.
New York State Department of Health
Dear Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Reardon, Commissioner Zucker,
On behalf of millions of essential workers who have been on the frontlines of the devastating COVID-19 crisis, we urge you to revisit the decision to allow New Yorkers to be in public indoor spaces without masks. Essential workers have done everything that New York has asked of them to get us through this pandemic.Too many lost their lives serving the people of this state. They have rightly been called heroes. With COVID-19 still circulating and millions still unvaccinated, forcing essential workers to interact with unmasked individuals is irresponsible and puts these heroes' lives in danger.
We are a coalition of labor unions, legal service providers, immigrant rights groups, community organizations, and worker advocacy groups who campaigned for the NY HERO Act to codify worker protections into law to ensure that all workers were safe on the job and that common sense workplace safety standards would be enforced.
During the worst days of the pandemic, workers had to beg employers to provide masks, enforce store masking rules themselves, or work in unsafe conditions. Unfortunately with the decision last week to remove the indoor mask mandate, workers are once again put in the untenable position of choosing between going to work and staying safe. Already our members are telling us that employers are saying they no longer have to provide masks. Workers are forced to interact with maskless customers without knowing what their vaccine status is. Business owners who want to protect their communities by continuing to require masks are now fearful that they will lose business.
We understand that New Yorkers are eager for things to return to normal. We all are, especially our essential worker members who have suffered the worst traumas of this pandemic. Unfortunately we have not reached that point yet. Thousands of New Yorkers test positive for COVID-19 every day. Less than half of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. In communities of color those numbers are even lower. Now is not the time to throw away all that we have learned from this pandemic and put workers' lives at risk. Continuing to wear masks indoors in order to prevent infections and save lives is simply common sense.
We urge you to immediately modify the mask guidance to mandate masks in public indoor settings and workplaces and to put in place common sense, science-based standards around masking, distancing, and ventilation for the Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention plans to be created under the NY HERO Act.
9/11 Environmental Action
Cabrini Immigrant Service
Citizen Action of New York
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Laundry Workers Center
Legal Aid Society of New York
Make the Road New York
National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)
National Employment Law Project (NELP)
National Day Laborers Organizing Network
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
New York Communities for Change
NY Nail Salon Workers Association
NY NJ Regional Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
United Auto Workers Region 9A
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 2013
Worker Center of Central New York
Worker Justice Center of New York
Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health