Queens lawmakers applaud governor’s increasing of worker protections on Labor Day

Governor Kathy Hochul signs a package of legislation increasing worker protections, including two bills from state Senator Jessica Ramos. (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

On Labor Day, Governor Kathy Hochul signed four pieces of legislation, some of which were introduced by Queens lawmakers, to boost workplace safety and put more money in workers’ pockets.

Two of the measures were authored by state Senator Jessica Ramos, who was in East Elmhurst with a group of union volunteers clearing debris from Hurricane Ida-stricken homes when she got the news.

“With laborers, with the carpenters, with the building trades, we had introduced a bill to make general contractors liable for any wage theft that happens with their subcontractors,” Ramos said. “Governor Hochul just signed our bill into law.”

As the workers erupted into applause and congratulations, another of Ramos’ bills was signed extending shared work benefits.

“This Labor Day, we make history for New York’s workers. Addressing wage theft in the construction industry and strengthening the benefits for New Yorkers in the Shared Work Program puts more money in working families’ pockets,” Ramos said. “I thank the governor for taking the soonest action and look forward to continuing our work towards a fair and inclusive recovery.”

Another piece of legislation establishes a demonstration program implementing speed violation monitoring systems in work zones and another requires the payment of prevailing wage to building service employees at co-ops and condos that receive the 467-a tax abatement.

“On Labor Day every year, we’re reminded of the vital contributions of organized labor to building New York, and that’s why I’m signing four pieces of legislation to help workers thrive across our state,” Hochul said. “These bills will make sure workers are paid fair wages, receive good benefits and stay safe on their worksites. Our state is home to a long and proud legacy of supporting working New Yorkers, and we’re working to bolster that for the future.”

The governor also announced that the commissioner of health has designated COVID-19 a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk to the public health under New York State’s Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), which requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans in the event of an airborne infectious disease, helping to prevent workplace infections.

The NY HERO Act, sponsored by state Senator Michael Gianaris, mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the law, all employers are required to adopt a workplace safety plan and implement it for all airborne infectious diseases designated by the Department of Health. Employers can adopt a model safety plan as crafted by the Department of Labor or develop their own safety plan in compliance with NY HERO Act standards.

“While we continue to increase our vaccination numbers, the fight against the delta variant is not over, and we have to do everything we can to protect our workers,” Hochul said. “This designation will ensure protections are in place to keep our workers safe and support our efforts to combat the virus and promote health and safety.”

The HERO Act’s purpose is to ensure that businesses are prepared with protocols and resources to protect their employees and the public from the spread of airborne infectious diseases, like COVID’s delta variant.

“I’m very thankful Governor Hochul has acted quickly to save lives and protect workers by implementing the New York HERO Act,” Gianaris said. “It took too long to effectuate and too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit, but we can finally recognize their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job.”