Coalition of advocacy groups issues an 8-point worker-safety agenda

More than 100 organizations call for immediate action to reverse Trump-era policies and ensure workplace protection from COVID-19.

By Tony Silber      

Calling OSHA a “catastrophic failure” during the pandemic, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has teamed up with more than 100 labor and community-based organizations on an eight-point agenda for worker safety and health.

COSH called its national agenda, released last week, a transformational vision for the future of worker health and safety in the U.S. It pulls together ideas based on actual workplace experiences to confront COVID-19 and other longstanding workplace hazards.

“Workers are sick, broke and dying because so far during this pandemic, employers, OSHA and our federal government have failed to protect them from the risk of infectious disease,” Jessica Martinez, National COSH’s co-executive director, said in a press release. “We know workplace exposures play a major role in the virus transmission.”

Jessica Martinez

In addition, Martinez pointed out, six poultry workers were killed and many others injured due to a preventable disaster late last month in Gainesville, Georgia. While workers in some occupations have been awarded the title “essential,” that recognition is in words only, according to COSH, without any action to truly value and protect workers. Up until now, the COSH agenda states, neither the Occupational Safety and Health Administration our nation’s safety and health agency, nor any other federal body has enacted meaningful protections

The COSH agenda includes eight goals.

  • Strengthen and enforce safety laws and regulations.
  • Don’t let employers silence workers. Workers must be protected by strong anti-retaliation protections.
  • Listen to workers—they need a seat at the table.
  • Safe workplaces for all: Equity and inclusion.
  • Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers, with no special deals for corporations.
  • Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent and protect
        against COVID-19.
  • Confront the workplace effects of climate change.
  • Prevent chemical catastrophes and harmful exposures. 

The agenda calls for immediate action within the next 100 days. These steps include enacting emergency temporary COVID-19 standards for all workplaces. As of now, OSHA has only issued guidelines. New standards should require employers to create and implement a written infection prevention and control plan, developed in collaboration with workers, unions and other worker organizations. In addition, safety protections should align with the occupational health principle of “fixing the work, not the worker.”

In addition, The Biden Administration should reverse measures enacted during the Trump Administration that put meat packing and poultry-plant workers at grave risk of injury, COVID-19 infection and death, the agenda states.

“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,” Martinez said. “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.”

Read the full report and find the full list of participating organizations here.