In Albany, It’s Unions vs Businesses Over Covid Workplace Safety

NEW YORK -

New York lawmakers have finalized a bill that would set minimum workplace Covid safety standards, but businesses throughout the state are urging amendments before Governor Andrew Cuomo signs it, Spectrum News reported.

The NY Hero Act, which requires businesses to set up for social distancing and provide access to protective equipment, has the support of many politically powerful labor unions. The bill’s supporters argue it is necessary to ensure the return to the workplace happening for thousands in New York can go as safely and smoothly as possible.

An open letter signed by unions Communication Workers of America, the New York Nurses Association and the Retail, Wholesale and the Department Store Union, among others, urged the governor to sign the bill into law to support essential workers who kept services running throughout the pandemic.

“Workers in New York have worked without masks, gloves, or access to sanitary facilities, without being informed of positive tests in their workplace, crowded into spaces where they could not socially distance from coworkers, and without protections from retaliation if they demanded safe working conditions,” the letter stated.  “New York’s workers need the NY HERO Act to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from COVID-19 and whatever comes next…The best way to celebrate our heroes is to keep them safe on the job.”

However, business leaders and argue that the requirements are too onerous for businesses, which are struggling with the economic burden of the pandemic.

48 Businesses and Chambers of Commerce signed their own open letter, urging the legislature to make the bill only applicable during the pandemic state of emergency, and removing the provision that would allow a worker to sure the workplace over safety conditions.

“While the NY Hero Act is well-intentioned, we are calling on our leaders in Albany to work together to modify certain aspects of the bill that could irreparably harm struggling businesses across the state,” the business groups said in a statement. “By engaging with all stakeholders to advance sensible amendments, including applying this measure only during a declared state of emergency, we can achieve a balance between workplace safety and economic recovery.”

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smarcus@hamodia.com