At the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 entering the U.S., frontline and essential workers across the country continue to grapple with deadly conditions at their jobs. To save lives and get people back to work safely, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), along with more than 100 labor and community-based organizations, has released an eight-point “National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health.”
“Workers are sick, broke and dying — because so far during this pandemic, employers, OSHA, and our federal government have failed to protect workers from the risk of infectious disease,” said Jessica Martinez, National COSH’s co-executive director. “We know workplace exposures play a major role in the virus transmission. We know that seven poultry workers are dead and many other seriously injured from a preventable disaster in Georgia, because safety measures were not followed.”
“Day laborers have lost work during his pandemic, we are not being treated fairly, and our working conditions are not safe,” said Marcos Vasquez, a construction worker and member of the Fe y Justicia Workers Center in Houston, TX, one of the endorsers of the National Agenda. “We need strong action, now, to protect ourselves and our families.”
“Our employer lied to us about infections in the workplace,” said Daisy Cruz, a former construction worker from Worker’s Dignity in Nashville, also an endorser of the National Agenda. “I saw my co-worker pass out at work, and a week later I was showing symptoms and ended hospitalized for three months. If we’re going to stop the spread of this terrible disease, we need testing and tracking at our workplaces, and priority access to vaccines for frontline workers.”
The National Agenda brings together ideas, based on real experience in workplaces, to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and other longstanding workplace hazards, such as the recent liquid nitrogen leak at a poultry plant in Gainesville, GA which claimed six lives.
The National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health includes eight goals:
- Strengthen and enforce safety laws and regulations
- Don’t let employers silence workers
- Listen to workers: They need a seat at the table
- Safe workplaces for all: Equity and inclusion
- Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers, no special deals for corporations
- Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent, and protect against COVID-19
- Confront the workplace effects of climate change
- Prevent chemical catastrophes and harmful exposures
According to National COSH, workplaces remain key sites where the virus can spread rapidly, underscoring that workplace health and safety is public health and safety.
“The conditions these workers are in are not inevitable — they are the outcomes of egregious actions by employers who have not been held accountable and a workplace health and safety infrastructure that has been running on empty for decades,” states the organization.
“Our National Agenda is based on listening to workers and health and safety experts, who know about safety problems on their job and know how to fix them,” said Martinez. “With aggressive action, based on workers’ concerns and solutions, the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress can make a difference — saving lives, reducing illness and injuries, and helping U.S. workers and businesses get back to work safely.”