A Letter From Steven A. Toleman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO by Lisa Colon 4/16/2020:
Dear Chair Moore, Chair Naughton, and members of the Committee,
On behalf of over 400,000 union families in Massachusetts, including tens of thousands of workers on the front lines of this pandemic, I am testifying in strong support of HB4611/SB2602 An Act relative to emergency hazard health duty.
Thank you for your tireless efforts to combat this pandemic, both on the public health front and the economic front. This unprecedented crisis has undoubtedly laid bare how intertwined the two are – and how important every day working people are to keeping every family safe, secure, healthy and fed. There are currently tens of thousands of essential workers in Massachusetts on the job – and they are on the front lines of exposure to this virus. Whether police, fire fighters, EMTs, corrections officers, nurses, doctors, health care workers, janitors, pharmacy, grocery and food production workers, transit workers, child care workers, social workers, or construction workers – the virus can equally infect them and their loved ones, and leave them economically devastated if they are infected with COVID and unable to afford health care or pay their bills.
That’s why we think that every worker considered essential to keeping our Commonwealth functioning during this very difficult time should at a minimum receive free childcare while working; free coverage for all coronavirus treatments, tests, medicines; the personal protective equipment they so desperately need to keep themselves, their families and the people they serve safe; and they should be continued to be paid in full if they become unable to work, presumably because of exposure to COVID while on the job.
As it stands now, first responders who need to take time off of work due to COVID could be forced through a process of proving who, what, when, where and how they acquired this debilitating virus, even in the performance of their duties and amidst an unimaginable shortage of testing. There should be a presumption by the Commonwealth that any worker who becomes ill during this pandemic contracted their medical condition or incapacity to work in the line of duty, and they should be paid for on duty time without having to use any paid or contractual time off.
We hope that you report this bill out of your Committee favorably and swiftly. Thank you for your consideration and for your public service.
Steven A. Tolman,
President Toleman along with the UFCW Local’s 328, 1445, 1459 and other unions are working together with state legislators to support the passage of an “emergency hazard health bill” designed for essential workers and first responders to paid in full if they become unable to work due to exposure to COVID-19 while on the job.
The proposed bill is different from “hazard pay”, which typically is an hourly premium that some Employers have temporarily adopted for essential and first responder workers. The proposed emergency hazard health bill seeks to provide additional financial protection without a worker having to use any accrued paid or contractual time off.
When Employers are unable or unwilling to provide additional protections and compensation during this crisis, unions are taking it a step further by bringing their members health, safety and economic concerns to political leaders in hopes of strengthening protections for workers and their families.
I will keep you updated of any further developments.