For Immediate Release: February 3, 2021
Contact: Debra Coyle McFadden
WEC, National COSH, and 100+ Worker Groups
Release 2021 “Agenda for Worker Safety and Health”
OSHA a catastrophic failure during pandemic — agenda outlines how Biden-Harris Administration
can protect workers and rebuild our economy
As we hit the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 entering the United States, frontline and essential workers across the country continue to grapple with deadly conditions at their jobs. To save lives and get us back to work safely, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), NJ Work Environment Council (WEC), along with 100+ other organizations today released an eight-point “National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health”.
“Workers are sick, broke and dying — because so far during this pandemic, employers, OSHA and our federal government have failed to protect workers from the risk of infectious disease,” said Jessica Martinez, National COSH’s co-executive director.
Endorsed by more than 100 worker and community-based organizations including United Steelworker District 4 and Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the National Agenda is a bold, transformational vision for the future of worker health and safety in the U.S. The agenda brings together ideas, based on real experience in our workplaces, to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and other longstanding workplace hazards, such as the recent preventable tragedy at a poultry plant in Georgia which has claimed seven lives so far.
“Just as the pandemic put workers front and center, so does this agenda. For the past eleven months we have heard time and time again essential workers are heroes – and I couldn’t agree more,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, WEC. “Now is the time to move from lip service to action. Let’s work together to move this agenda forward to make workplaces safer, fairer and just as our way of showing workers our appreciation.”
The National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health includes eight goals:
- Strengthen and enforce our safety laws and regulations
- Don’t let employers silence us: Workers must be protected by strong anti-retaliation protections
- Listen to workers – we need a seat at the table
- Safe workplaces for all: Equity and inclusion
- Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers, no special deals for corporations
- Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent and protect
- Confront the Workplace Effects of Climate Change
- Prevent chemical catastrophes and harmful exposures
These recommendations are for anyone who is concerned about safety during COVID, and about preventable hazards in the workplace. The research is clear–workplaces remain key sites where the virus spreads rapidly, underscoring that workplace health and safety is public health and safety. The conditions these workers are in are not inevitable–they are the outcomes of egregious actions by employers who have not been held accountable and a workplace health and safety infrastructure that has been running on empty for decades.
“During this pandemic, the lives of healthcare workers have been turned upside down,” HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said. “These workers deserved dignity and safety on the job instead of being treated as disposable. All workers deserve a seat at the table in crafting and enforcing safety laws and regulations and creating safe workplace practices.”
“The heart of our Union is the safety and health of our members. We look forward working with all groups that aggressively advocate for the safety of workers,” said Del Vitale, Director, United Steelworkers District 4.
“Because of the pandemic the nation has become more aware of the contributions and sacrifices that our long-undervalued workforce makes year in and year out to keep our country functioning. Workers deserve the government’s strongest support to prevent them from unnecessary and tragic job -related injury, illness, and death. The National COSH blueprint provides the structure for what is needed: stronger safety laws, tougher enforcement, and protection against illegal employer retaliation,” said Marsha Love, National COSH Advisors member and resident of New Jersey.
“Our National Agenda is based on listening to workers and health and safety experts, who know about safety problems on their job and know how to fix them,” said Martinez. “With aggressive action, based on workers’ concerns and solutions, the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress can make a difference — saving lives, reducing illness and injuries, and helping U.S. workers and businesses get back to work safely.”
* * *
WEC is a non-profit alliance of 70 labor, community and environmental organizations working for safe, secure jobs and a healthy, sustainable environment. WEC is an affiliate of the National COSH network.
National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.