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Letter to State Legislators on Protecting New York Workers during the Second Wave of Covid-19

Dear New York State Legislators,

We are deeply concerned about the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 on workers, communities, and small businesses. Cases are rising across the state and once again thousands of New Yorkers are hospitalized. Without protections, workers are at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 at work and bringing the virus home to their communities. Small businesses are threatened with more shutdowns, while the worst employers act as superspreaders. We know that every day counts in keeping people safe and healthy. We are urging the legislature to pass the NY HERO Act as soon as possible to help stop the second wave of Covid-19.

Scientific evidence has shown that PPE, social distancing, sanitizing, ventilating, screening, and testing are key to preventing the spread of Covid-19. We also know that workers know best how to make sure these safety measures are implemented in their workplaces. Therefore, it is critical that the State of New York enshrine health and safety standards into law and promote cooperation between workers and employers to ensure that every workplace is safe. We can do that by passing the NY HERO Act as quickly as possible.

The NY HERO Act would direct the New York State Department of Labor to establish requirements for testing, face masks, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls. Every employer in the state would be required to follow these standards, which will be enforced by DOL through investigations, fines, and legal injunctions.

The NY HERO Act would also empower workers to protect their own safety, their workplaces, and customers through cooperation with employers. The bill would allow for workers to form health and safety committees with representatives from their employers to discuss health and safety plans and ensure that standards are being met. Workers who choose to form committees would be protected from retaliation.

The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic was particularly devastating for black and brown communities -- Black and Latinx New Yorkers were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as white New Yorkers.  During the first wave, workplace transmissions were a key driver of Covid-19 spread, particularly in Black and Brown communities where essential workers never stopped working. Preventing workplace spread is critical for preventing a second wave and keeping these communities safe.

After so many workers gave their lives to get New York through the first wave, we must listen to workers this time and ensure that they have legal protections to prevent exposure once again. As we sit on the cusp of a second wave we urge the legislature to pass the NY HERO Act without delay and make New York a national model in protecting workers, communities, and small businesses during this ongoing crisis.

Signed,

1199 SEIU

9/11 Environmental Action

Adhikaar

AFCSME DC 37

African Communities Together

Alianza Agricola

ALIGN-NY

BK Rot

Center For Food Safety

Citizen Action of New York

Community Food Advocates

CWA District 1

DRUM-Desis Rising up and Moving

Environmental Advocates of New York

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Friends of the Earth

GAPIMNY

HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance

Housing Justice for All

IBT Local 813

Jew for Racial Economic Justice

Jobs with Justice

Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future

Kinetic Communities

Laundry Workers Center

Legal Aid Society

Long Island Jobs with Justice

Long Island Progressive Coalition

Make the Road New York

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

National Domestic Workers Alliance

National Employment Law Project

New York City Central Labor Council

New York Civil Liberties Union

New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

New York Communities for Change

New York Immigration Coalition

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

New York State AFL-CIO

New York State Nurses Association

New York Working Families

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson

NY Nail Salon Workers Association

NY NJ Regional Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU

Partnership for Working Families

People Climate Movement

Public Justice

Push Buffalo

Queens Climate Project

Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union

Sierra Club

Street Vendor Project, Urban Justice Center

Strong Economy for all Coalition

Syracuse Immigrant and Refugee Defense Network

Teamsters Joint Council 16

Tech Workers Coalition

Tompkins County Worker Center

TREEage

UAW Region 9A

Union of Concerned Scientists

UFCW Local 2013

Vocal-NY

Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health

West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Worker Justice Center of NY

Workers Center of Central New York

Workplace Project