Federal agencies Unions Workplace exposures

AFL-CIO calls for emergency standards, additional worker protections before reopening the economy

Photo: Aquir/iStockphoto

Washington — The AFL-CIO has outlined steps it says all levels of government should take to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 before reopening the economy.

In an April 21 press release, the labor federation calls on OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to issue emergency temporary standards regarding infectious disease.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka announced the same day that Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, has introduced legislation that would require OSHA to take this step. The bill (H.R. 6559) was referred to Scott’s committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


“This standard would require employers that are currently open or plan to reopen to develop and implement an infection control plan,” Trumka said during a call with members of the media. The emergency standard also would require hazard assessments, engineering controls, provisions for personal protective equipment, medical surveillance and medical removal protections, among other measures.

The AFL-CIO also is calling for:

  • A “massive increase” in “rapid and reliable” COVID-19 testing
  • A “massive increase in adequate levels and types” of PPE for employees currently working and those returning to work
  • Stronger worker protections against employer retaliation
  • Recording, reporting and tracking of worker infections
  • Paid time off and no retaliation for workers exposed to individuals infected with COVID-19.

“A historic crisis requires a historic response,” Trumka told reporters. “If we truly believe workers are essential, then these conditions are essential, too. Let’s back our words up with actions. Worker safety, economic recovery and public health are intertwined. Moving too fast or doing too little on one front poses an extreme danger to everyone. That can’t happen.”

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