CWA/NCPSO – Call To Action
Sisters and Brothers,
In Virginia, over 56,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, and as the state continues to expand reopening, without the proper protections in place, exposures in the workplace will escalate. Virginia could be the first state to propose a comprehensive standard to protect all workers from COVID-19. This standard is being worked on right now and had been heavily influenced by Industry in a negative way. The Standards Board will meet next Wednesday to discuss and we must weigh in to make the necessary changes to the standard being drafted. It is a significant step forward in protecting our workers and our communities from this virus.
We have seen our own brothers and sisters infected while working in Virginia across the state. At Verizon, AT&T, Airlines, CenturyLink, American Red Cross and especially within our Correctional Facilities, we have seen members lives endangered just for coming to work. Across the Country, we have also seen at least 46 of our own co-workers and friends at CWA lose their life due to this deadly disease just because they came to work.
We strongly support Virginia moving forward in protecting workers from COVID-19 through a strong enforceable standard. With some improvements, the proposed standard will save lives and slow the spread of the virus in our state.
URGENT CALL TO ACTION
We need to submit public comments in support of a stronger comprehensive workplace safety standard in Virginia by 11:59 pm this Monday June 22nd. The Health and Safety board will meet next week and take in consideration comments on the proposed recommendations. So time is of the essence.
1. Go to this link to fill out the submission form.
2. Fill in your name, location and email address.
3. Then using one more issues below, please write in the comments section, why these changes are needed. This would be preferable to be rewritten in your own words yet are written to be copied and pasted if need be. The more you can tell how this affects you the better.
Working people are in desperate need of a strong, enforceable standard to require their employers to plan for and protect them from COVID-19.
The below improvements must be made to make sure the standard truly protects workers from this deadly virus:
- The provision allowing for employers to comply with CDC guidance as a replacement for following the Virginia standard must be removed. Voluntary guidance is never a substitute for an enforceable standard. Also, the CDC has watered down guidance during the pandemic due to industry desires instead of scientific reasoning and public safety.
- The standard must clearly recognize 1) airborne transmission of the virus (which requires higher levels of adequate respirators and social distancing), and 2) asymptomatic transmission of the virus (which requires high levels of protection and quick removal from work with paid leave and employer reporting of cases to public health department and OSHA, etc.). The scientific evidence is clear.
- The risk categories in the proposal are misguided. They are not relevant to the current exposure and infection rates in workplaces. We now know that all workplaces where workers are in close contact with the public or their coworkers are at high risk of exposure, such as meatpacking and corrections, not just in healthcare settings. The standard must ensure that all workers are protected equally from the virus through requiring an exposure assessment, infection plan, controls, reporting and training in ALL at-risk workplaces.
- The provision that leaves it up the employer to assess risk categories is extremely dangerous. The incentive to is too great place employees in lower risk categories for this to be left solely to the employer. Lacking set categorizations for employee tasks, employers must involve the workers who do the job, and their Labor Unions/Employee Associations where in place, in assessing any work place for risk. It must be mandatory that risk categorization is a mutually agreed upon decision.
- The standard must include strong requirements for reporting and recordkeeping. These elements are currently weak or missing and are essential to quickly understand the location and severity of outbreaks and to target prevention measures.
- This standard must also include provisions for workers who enter residences and other businesses where the employer does not control the environment. Due to the inability to ever know the risks involved, there must be a mandatory requirement of “Respirators” and not “Face Coverings” to be provided by the employer before entering. There also needs to be a requirement to provide gloves and other necessary PPE to protect the employee who enters these unknown locations. Finally, this standard must clearly state that the employee and not the employer has the final say, without fear of reprisal, on whether it is safe to enter the location.
- Our Correctional/Detention Facilities have been hard hit with extremely high infection rates and outbreaks among both those incarcerated and officers and staff. As it has been unfortunately proven that the protections attempted by the Departments themselves have failed to stop the outbreaks and deaths from this deadly disease. The design of these facilities and interaction required does not allow social distancing or similar recommendations to limit the spread of the disease. This spread has happened even in cases where known Covid-19 cases were segregated in separate spaces. To categorize these facilities as “Medium” risk is a travesty given the rates of infection and deaths that we have seen, just in Virginia. These facilities must be categorized as “Very High” and appropriate steps mandated to protect everyone involved.
Please use the above issues as guidelines for making a comment to support the passage of this standard. We must pass a standard but need your help in making the changes necessary to truly keep us safe at work. We know our employers won’t do it willingly.