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New York HERO Act passes in Albany, ensuring COVID-19 safety in the workplace

State Senator Michael Gianaris announces his NY HERO Act has passed in Albany and awaits the Governor to sign the workplace protections into law. (Courtesy of Gianaris' office)

The state Senate approved the New York HERO Act that will mandate enforceable safety standards in the workplace during the COVID-19 crisis. Now, state Senator Michel Gianaris, the bill’s author, is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the measure into law when it lands on his desk.

“Too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit,” Gianaris said. “The New York HERO Act honors their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job. I appreciate the support for this proposal from my colleagues in both houses and so many organizations throughout New York.”

Supported by more than 100 labor, community and safety organizations including the AFL-CIO, the legislation would require the Departments of Labor and Health to implement enforceable minimum standards for workplace safety. The regulations must include protocols on testing, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection and engineering controls.

“The Legislature is once again taking action to protect workers. The New York HERO Act codifies the way workers want to feel protected, requiring businesses to have enforceable safety standards,” said state Senator Jessica Ramos, the chair of the Labor Committee. “Throughout this pandemic, workers across our state have had to put their lives and the lives of their families at risk to keep New York running. It’s our turn to take care of them.”

Under the legislation, workers would also be given a direct role in monitoring and reporting violations through workplace health and safety committees and employees would be protected from retaliation for utilizing their rights under the law.

“As a nurse, I know how hard this last year has been for those working on the front lines of the pandemic — worried about their health, the health of those around them and whether their work environment was a safe one,” said Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, who carried the bill in the lower chamber. “We need to ensure that corporations, who have made billions during this pandemic, provide adequate protections to their employees and frontline workers. This legislation will save lives and protect those that are on the front lines of this public health crisis.”

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said the measure will make New York among the first states to enact a strong infectious airborne disease standard, along with enforceable labor regulations and health and safety protocols to protect all workers.

“It’s the least New York can do for essential workers, who sacrificed much during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the state running,” Sheridan-Gonzalez said. “The 42,000 members of the New York State Nurses Association applaud the many labor and community allies, as well as the leaders, and sponsors and advocates, within both the Assembly and the Senate, for their commitment and work to get this done. We look forward to this bill being signed into law and to the day when no worker has to choose between life and livelihood.”

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