Dear Colleague to All Members on Protecting America's Workers
Next week, Congress returns to Session under the careful, science-based guidance of the Office of the Attending Physician and Sergeant-At-Arms to ensure the health and safety of Members and staff. As we fight to defeat the coronavirus and open our economy, we must apply that same careful, science-based guidance to all.
We do just that in The Heroes Act. Specifically, The Heroes Act:
- Requires OSHA to issue an enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within seven days that will require employers to develop and enact a comprehensive plan to protect their workers, based on CDC and other expert guidance;
- Requires OSHA to issue a permanent strong, enforceable infectious disease standard within 24 months of enactment to require workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans, based on CDC expertise;
- Further protects workers by banning retaliation from their employers if they report infection control problems in the workplace or if they bring their own more effective, respirators to work.
Our essential workers – health care, first responders, teachers, postal, transit, sanitation, food and others – risk their lives each day on the frontlines and fear endangering their children and families when they return home from the job.
Safety in the workplace is a matter of life-and-death. The numbers are staggering: tens of thousands of frontline workers have contracted COVID-19 and hundreds have tragically died, with millions more at risk as the economy begins to open. In the meat and poultry industry alone, at least 17,700 workers in 216 meatpacking and food processing plants have contracted COVID-19: an average of 82 infected workers per plant. New research shows that without proper safety protections, infections could skyrocket: a single plant with the average of 82 infections could see an outbreak of an additional 2,300 infections in as few as 12 days, potentially overflowing hospital ICUs in eight states.
Alarmingly, as the threat of more workplace-based outbreaks looms, the Labor Department has opened only 358 inspections of the nearly 4,000 COVID-19-related complaints OSHA received. Sadly, most of these inspections have occurred only after a worker has died. OSHA has not issued a single citation.
We cannot accept leaving workers in harm’s way, forcing them to sacrifice their health and that of their families, while potentially risking further outbreaks of this pandemic that will prolong this crisis.
We are proud that The Heroes Act takes additional steps to protect workers by creating a $200 billion Heroes Fund for hazard pay for frontline essential workers who experience frequent, sustained exposure as they work to keep our country running. The bill also expands workers’ compensation coverage, increases access to emergency paid sick and family and medical leave to all workers, invests in worker training and re-training for job seekers and protects the pensions of more than one million workers.
Workers are the backbone of our economy and country, during this pandemic and throughout our nation’s history. We cannot abandon them as they sacrifice on the frontlines.
Please make your U.S. Senators aware of the life-saving investment that The Heroes Act makes in protecting America’s workers.
Thank you and best regards,