Labor launches video to get OSHA standards into coronavirus aid bill
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WASHINGTON—The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health launched a major drive, complete with a riveting video to be attached to communications to lawmakers, to ensure a mandatory anti-coronavirus safety and health standard is in the next economic stimulus law.

The objective: To put enough pressure on GOP senators, notably ones who are vulnerable at the polls this fall, to defy both Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Donald Trump and force Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to write such a standard and enforce it, now.

The standard, in turn, would force firms to protect their workers against airborne viral transmissions, one of the most common ways the coronavirus spreads quickly.

Senators “have got to wake up and realize people are dying,” Postal Workers Vice President Debbie Szeredy told a July 14 zoom press conference.

NACOSH and the Labor Network for Sustainability put together the Fight For The Living video featuring first responders—or, in some cases, their survivors—who had to battle the coronavirus pandemic while also battling a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks, protective gloves, respirators, and hazmat suits.

The result has been hundreds of dead first responders among the 136,466 people the virus has killed since the pandemic was declared in the U.S. on March 13. As of 12:30 am on July 15, 3,431,574 million people have tested positive. Both figures are around a quarter of the world’s total. More than 58,000 people in the U.S. tested positive on July 14.

“Our message is clear: The next COVID stimulus bill must include protections of those essential workers,” Martinez explained. Their “lives…hang in the balance.”

People can contact senators by e-mail, on social media, or by calling (202) 224-3121, the Capitol phone number, and asking for senators by name or by state, NACOSH said. The advantage of email and social media is people can also attach the film, which is available at www.nationalcosh.org/essential, along with a toolkit.

“The bottom line is people really need to step up and put pressure on the Senate,” said Michael Leon Guerrero of the labor network. “That’s why it’s really important to get the stimulus bill passed, with the PPE and with the aid to state and local governments,” he added. Besides paying for more PPE and mandating the OSHA anti-virus rule, NACOSH and its allies also advocate the bill’s mandate of paid family and medical leave for workers, including first responders, felled by the virus or forced to quarantine to protect themselves.

The state and local aid, Guerrero explained, would help those governments keep workers on the job testing and treating coronavirus victims, as well as helping people get jobless benefits. Besides sickening millions, the forced closures and bans on large gatherings threw the U.S. into an economic depression, with more than 33 million people unemployed.

The depression tanked state and local revenues, at a time when demand for state services has soared. The Democratic-run House passed the $3 trillion stimulus bill, called the Heroes Act, months ago. It includes $1 trillion in state and local aid, orders the OSHA mandate and provides $25 billion to the financially ailing U.S. Postal Service, among other measures.

That stimulus bill would also extend temporary federal jobless benefits—the $600 weekly checks—through Jan. 31. They now are scheduled to end July 31, leaving millions of people to face financial ruin without them.

The Postal Workers already targeted ten senators for pressure to pass the stimulus bill, said Szeredy. Other unions joining the drive so far include the Letter Carriers, United Food and Commercial Workers, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees/AFT and Unite Here.

“We delivered two million letters” to lawmakers for passing the Heroes Act, “and that’s an awful lot,” Szeredy said.

“Mobilization and public awareness is the key,” Martinez added. “A lot of local COSH groups already have been mobilizing their members and putting pressure on local governments.” But the push is needed at the national level, she said.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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