The NY HERO Act
This legislation, which has not yet been formally introduced, would help keep New Yorkers safe from Covid-19 while on the job. Immigrants were overrepresented among those essential workers who worked through the worst days of coronavirus, putting themselves and their families at greater risk of infection.
Members of immigrant communities contract Covid at a rate four times higher than the native white population. Immigrants are especially concentrated in health care, domestic work, service jobs, and agriculture as well as food production, processing, and preparation. Most of these jobs are low-paying, and workers live paycheck to paycheck.
Few immigrants are covered by unemployment insurance or included in Covid income support. Legislation proposed by NY Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (Democrat, Queens) in mid-August could help. It would require businesses to have minimum workplace safety standards for all employees to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.
The act would set minimum protocols for testing, PPE (personal protective equipment), social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection practices, and engineering controls to improve air quality. It would give workers a direct role in monitoring and reporting violations, protect them from employer retaliation, and establish workplace health and safety committees.
Standards would be developed by the NYS Departments of Labor and Health and be enforced with significant fines. Union leaders across the state, from laundries to vineyards, teamsters to retail clerks to teachers, have endorsed this legislation.
Emails, letters, or phone calls urging your representatives to endorse this idea could help. Contact information is shown in the orange box. Citizen Action will cover issues of worker safety more broadly in a virtual event, Clocking in During COVID: What Working Families Should Know, Thursday, October 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m.