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Workers ‘Welcome’ OSHA Emergency Antivirus Standard - GOP ‘Doesn’t’

Published Monday, November 8, 2021
by Mark Gruenberg/People’s World
Workers ‘Welcome’ OSHA Emergency Antivirus Standard - GOP ‘Doesn’t’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Workers facing the fear and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic welcomed the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new Emergency Temporary Standard - ordering all firms that employ at least 100 people mandate anti-virus vaccinations for Workers or weekly testing for the unvaccinated.

And if workers contract the virus, the firms must provide them with Paid Sick and Family Leave Time to recover, OSHA said.

But while OSHA mandated business protect its workers, Congressional Republicans fumed, claiming it would cost firms too much money and profits.  But their statement never mentioned workers’ suffering.  They vowed to overturn the standard and ban a permanent one too.  “Job creators” - GOP jargon for businesses - “should not be forced to become the vaccine-and-testing police,” their spokeswoman, U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx (Republican-North Carolina).

The OSHA standard will fully take effect on January 4th, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said.

OSHA estimated the standard will cover at least 84 million Workers, though it expects millions more will follow as other firms voluntarily obey.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Workers and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” said Walsh, using the virus’s official name. “We must implement this Emergency Temporary Standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19.  Many businesses understand the benefits of having their Workers vaccinated and we expect many will be pleased to see this OSHA rule go into effect.”

Walsh may be understating the trauma of workers seeing colleagues sicken and die from COVID-19, deaths OSHA hopes to reduce and prevent.

“COVID-19 hit our nursing home hard,” said Ann Barden, a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 and a Dietary Aide and Cook at the Trinity Hill Nursing Home in Hartford, Connecticut, during a zoom press conference, which was convened by the Pro-Worker National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.  “We were given substandard gowns and told to share masks and coveralls.  The company sprayed the masks with cleaning chemicals (so they could be reused).  Those chemicals sickened workers, too - and shared masks go against Federal guidelines.  Half of our Workers got sick and many died.”

OSHA investigated and fined the nursing home and three others in its chain $60,000, she said.

Besides mandating vaccinations and weekly anti-Coronavirus testing for the unvaccinated, the Emergency Standard declares firms must offer Paid Family and Medical Leave to Workers who test positive until they recover.  It also requires face masks within workplaces.

Firms must determine the vaccination status of each Employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated Employees and maintain records and maintain a roster of each Employee’s vaccination status, OSHA said.

In return, Workers must give firms “prompt notice” when they test positive.

OSHA’s standard also covers all Health Care Workers, Public and Private.

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