AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently decried the Trump Administration for being unprepared for the current coronavirus contagion spreading throughout the US—as well as being incompetent in its federal response to the outbreak—and called for an emergency workplace standard on infectious diseases to protect workers from the virus.
“The reports I’m hearing from our affiliate unions are deeply troubling,” Trumka said in a March 6 speech to a roundtable of reporters. “Guidance from federal authorities have been inconsistent at best and dangerous at worst. Many employers are woefully unprepared. And the virus continues to spread.”
Trumka said the federal government had a permanent infectious disease workplace standard in the works, but President Trump halted work on it when he assumed office in 2017. “This is part of the Trump Administration’s pattern of reckless and dangerous deregulation,” he said.
Trumka said an emergency workplace infectious disease standard would “be a step in the right direction” and set in motion a six-month timeline to create a permanent standard so the US is better prepared if and when the next outbreak occurs. “A protective OSHA standard is even more important now that the Trump administration rolled back CDC-recommended protections, leaving working people at greater risk,” he said.
The nation’s largest union also sent an email to its members—and created a campaign on The Action Network—urging all members to call their federal representatives and advocate for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases.
“There is no existing OSHA standard or basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases,” the campaign statement said. “In the absence of a set of mandatory infection control requirements that employers must implement, there is no assurance that all workers will be protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19.”
To learn more about the AFL-CIO’s position on protecting workers from infectious diseases and to view a list of resources about the COVID-19 outbreak, visit www.aflcio.org.