UCS: Health care COVID workplace standard leaves out grocery, farmworkers
The Biden administration is planning today to release an emergency temporary standard requiring workplace COVID-19 protections for health care workers, but that standard fails to provide other frontline workers such as grocery store staff, farmworkers, meatpackers and public transit operators with the same protection to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 on the job, the Union of Concerned Scientists said Wednesday.
“With highly transmissible variants posing a threat to public health, uneven vaccination rates, and the relaxation of previous requirements, this is no time to let down our guard,” said UCS Executive Director Kathleen Rest. “Infection rates are declining, but the pandemic is not over. All workers deserve a safe environment with science-based protections from COVID-19. An emergency temporary standard is critical for protecting our health care workers, but it cannot leave behind other essential frontline workers. No worker should have to choose between their health and a paycheck.”
UCS noted that, according to the National Employment Law Project, California, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia have already developed and implemented an ETS, and 10 other states have adopted comprehensive, enforceable safety protocols to protect workers from COVID-19.
“With spotty mask requirements and vaccination rates not where they need to be, a comprehensive federal workplace ETS — which has the status of a formal, enforceable regulation — would offer the best opportunity to protect workers at greatest risk nationwide,” UCS said.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.