Queens lawmaker introduces NY HERO Act to keep workers safe during COVID-19 pandemic

Courtesy JC 16

Seeking to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Senator Michael Gianaris announced union-backed legislation known as the NY HERO Act. The bill requires businesses to have enforceable safety standards to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

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

The NY HERO Act, or the New York Health and Essential Rights Act, would mandate the Department of Labor and Health to implement minimum standards for workplace safety, enforceable through significant fines. The regulations must introduce protocols on testing, PPE. social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls.

“Because of the federal government’s failure to ensure workplace safety, we are fighting to create enforceable standards, and not just guidelines, to keep all New Yorkers safe,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Applebaum said. “This must be a priority for Albany because it is a priority for all working New Yorkers.”

Under the legislation, employers would be permitted to establish individual regulations for their businesses that exceed state requirements.

“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,” UFCW 2013 President Louis Mark Carotenuto said. “To require Enforceable Safety & Health Standards for these brave essential workers is simply a must. 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.”

The NY HERO Act would require that workers would also be given a direct role in monitoring and reporting violations through workplace health and safety committees that would be empowered to raise complaints and report violations.

“We only need to look around the country to see why New York must take bold steps to protect its workers from a second wave of COVID-19,” Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda said. “While the Trump administration offers only guidance for companies, New York leaders must step in and hold employers legally accountable to provide PPE and sanitary facilities. This is about more than worker rights, it’s about public health.”

The bill would protect employers from retaliation for utilizing their rights under the law.

“Workers of color have borne the brunt of COVID-19 for America,” Teamsters Local 813 President Sean T. Campbell said. “Our communities have done the majority of essential jobs that allowed others to remain at home and 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.”

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