Safety First: Working People's Petition to Governor Northam
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Dear Governor Northam,
As a doctor, you have understood the importance of health and safety during these most uncertain times. We also know you and your team are under a great deal of pressure. A few short months ago none of us could have imagined the crisis we currently find ourselves. This uncertainty calls for bold and decisive action and the leadership to see it through.
As people of faith, union members, and community activists, we are concerned about Virginia’s essential workers – both now and as we seek to open more workplaces. Virginia could do more to protect frontline workers transit system, healthcare workers at our hospitals, first responders, grocery store workers, meat and poultry slaughter and processing workers, seafood workers, port workers, farm workers, utility workers, truck drivers, building trades workers, postal workers, sanitation workers, longshore and harbor workers, steel workers, and many more. These frontline workers face unsafe working conditions day-in and day-out, ensuring that Virginians can have continued access to essentials needed to survive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be implemented and enforced to protect these workers from further spread of COVID-19.
We call upon you and your administration to require employers to protect workers by doing the following:
· Enforce social and physical distancing
· Provide proper and adequate on-the-job personal protective equipment
· Provide COVID-19 safety training
· Provide rapid and reliable free testing
· Protect workers from retaliation
· Provide mandatory paid quarantine and paid sick leave
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) ranked Virginia as 48th in the United States for testing rates in response to COVID-19. We must have this testing to protect workplaces. If employers cannot locate adequate protective gear, we need your Administration to help employers get the equipment.
Given how dangerous workplaces are for workers, we also ask you to:
· Require workers compensation to assume that COVID19 was acquired in the workplace for any of these frontline essential workers.
· Require consumers to wear masks when they enter stores, ride buses or interact with these frontline workers.
We want nothing more than for workers to be able to return to work, but the desire to open businesses must not outweigh health and safety. The main question should not be when we reopen but how we reopen. We must all be confident- employers, employees, and consumers alike- that safety measures are taken, workers are protected and that the primary criterion for deciding whether it is safe for working people to return to work is worker safety.
Please focus on worker safety by requiring protections rather than suggesting guidelines.