Emergency Protection for NYC Frontline Workers

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Across New York City, frontline workers are risking their lives to keep hospitals running, transit moving and food on store shelves. The unjust irony is that these essential workers, who are literally keeping the city alive, are some of the city’s lowest paid and the most vulnerable to infection and illness during the pandemic. They are enduring brutal conditions of long shifts, speed-ups, and incredible stress on their mental and physical health.

Employers and the city’s response has been barbarically inadequate and slow, resulting in the unnecessary death of many frontline workers. They have failed to supply these workers with adequate protective equipment, safety measures, and material support. This has particularly affected communities of color, immigrants and women, who make up the majority of essential workers. Black and Latinx workers have died at twice the rate.

This can be changed, conditions can improve, and lives can be saved. We call on the Mayor and City Council to instate the following city-wide emergency measures to fix this crisis within the crisis and make these workers safe and secure.

1) Universal provision of personal protection equipment of the highest standard to all workers, across public and private worksites. Every healthcare worker, grocery store employee, transit operator, postal service and delivery person and other frontline worker deserves the right to the best protection available against COVID-19.

2) Thirty-hours work for forty-hours pay.  Institute hazard pay in the form of 40 hours pay for 30 hours work for all workers who are serving in harm’s way.  Better distribution of work and less time on the job means less exposure, and less of the stress that can undermine workers’ immune systems. This measure will also effectively employ 25% more workers, when unemployment is at a staggering high. Provide full wages for all workers who are forced to stay at home and/or are caring for dependents, until it is safe to return to work. Shorter hours with no reduction in pay for part-time workers.

3) Expand Medicare to provide universal free quality healthcare to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Fund citywide free testing. This crisis will never be solved if people are afraid and unable to access the healthcare services they need.

4) Empower committees of frontline workers selected from their workplaces to establish city-wide policies across industries regarding their safety. Workers are the best suited to determine how worksites should be run safely and humanely.

We call on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to take these necessary measures to protect frontline workers, their families and communities.