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Coalition sues OSHA in effort to force permanent standard on COVID-19 for health care workers

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Washington — The AFL-CIO and National Nurses United are part of a coalition of labor unions and organizations that has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Labor and OSHA, petitioning a federal court to direct the agency to issue a permanent standard on COVID-19 focused on health care workers.

The coalition, which filed a petition Jan. 5 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is calling on OSHA to issue – within 30 days of a court order – a permanent standard “aimed at protecting the life and health of millions of nurses and other frontline health care workers.” In addition, the petition calls on the agency to retain and enforce its emergency temporary standard focused health care workers, published in the June 21 Federal Register.

The coalition is requesting an expedited briefing, with 10 days for a response and five days for a reply.

In a Dec. 27 statement, OSHA announced it was withdrawing the non-recordkeeping portions of the ETS, but added that the agency would “work expeditiously” to issue a final rule.

The coalition expresses concern about health care workers being exposed to the new omicron variant, which is responsible for more than 95% of current COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Jan. 3, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows that the country hit a daily record of nearly 1.1 million new infections.

 

“We must treat the surge in new cases as the crisis that it is,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in an NNU press release. “In the face of the omicron variant, it is not time to roll back protections, but to fully enforce and make them permanent.”

Adds NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo: “Going to work should not mean putting your life and the lives of your loved ones in danger.”

The coalition also includes the New York State Nurses Association; the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals; the American Federation of Teachers; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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