On May 12, workers, unions, community advocates, health and safety experts, and the former Secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from the Obama administration held a Zoom press conference to urge New York Governor Cuomo to issue a New York Health and Essential Rights Executive Order (NY H.E.R.O) to limit the spread of COVID-19 as the state takes steps to re-open its economy.
"We must guarantee that all essential workers have the necessary protective equipment and legal protections they need to do their jobs safely and properly," said Bob Master, Assistant to the Vice President for CWA District 1. “Furthermore, workers must have an established workplace voice in protecting their own safety. Every essential workplace must have a worker-led committee which is empowered to raise safety concerns and be consulted in reopening decisions. The path to a new, safe normal will not be successful without the voice of workers being heard.”
Every day, more than two million frontline workers across the state must leave their homes and report to jobs in essential sectors. They risk exposing themselves, their families, and their communities to COVID-19. Many are still not receiving adequate PPE and work in facilities that do not practice social distancing. Without increased protections, these workers are at risk of exposure to a second surge of COVID-19 in New York, participants in the press call said.
"We had no PPE for the longest time, we had almost no care from the company, not once did they come up and express they cared about us. It was always a fight," said Hope Gilmore, a CWA Local 1102 member working at the EZ Pass call center on Staten Island who fought alongside her coworkers to get the company to agree to employees working from home. “If it had not been for the union, social distancing, deep cleaning, and the set-up to work from home wouldn't have set up properly."
More details about the NY HEROES Act are available here. It has been endorsed by a number of health and safety experts, worker advocates, and labor unions.