Groups Urge Maryland Gov. Hogan to Issue Emergency Safety Standard to Protect Workers from COVID-19

A broad and unprecedented coalition of worker rights and anti-poverty groups, faith leaders, environmental organizations, and public health professionals in Maryland today called on Governor Larry Hogan to issue emergency protective measures to protect Maryland’s workers from COVID-19 in the workplace. The 12 organizations filed a consolidated petition to the governor after he ignored previous petitions urging him to safeguard workers from exposure to COVID-19 at work, especially essential workers who are disproportionately Black and Latinx.

The petition urges Governor Hogan to “join the scores of other governors and states working to reopen responsibly by recognizing the importance of protecting the workforce that provides the labor that is essential to the economy…. It is imperative that you act now to issue an executive order to prevent more Marylanders from dying of coronavirus and to prevent mass strain on our healthcare resources, and to prevent our state economy from shuttering once more.”

Virginia recently adopted an emergency standard to protect workers from COVID-19, and Oregon is currently working to adopt similar provisions. Additionally, 13 other governors have taken action to protect workers.

The petition makes clear that the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) standards currently in place fail to adequately protect workers’ health and safety. There are currently no infectious disease standards or requirements to protect workers from COVID-19.

“Three months ago, the Maryland State and DC AFL-CIO, and nearly one hundred state and national labor leaders sent a petition to Governor Hogan and his Department of Labor requesting an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for workers be implemented in Maryland, to protect our most valuable asset: our workers. Unfortunately, the Governor has taken zero action on this request, leaving the lives and livelihoods of workers and their families in jeopardy,” said Donna S. Edwards, President of the Maryland State and DC AFL-CIO. She added, “It’s not too late, and we call on the Governor to stand up for workers, and to make all workplaces safe by creating an Emergency Temporary Standard.”

“Maryland’s working men and women deserve to work safe, no matter the circumstances. We urge Governor Hogan to draft strong, enforceable standards that safeguard Maryland’s workers against COVID-19,” said UFCW Local 1994 President Gino Renne. “Government is a promise to its citizens, and Maryland’s government should keep its promise by ensuring that every employer is held accountable for failing to protect its workforce.”

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America, ATU members have been bravely reporting for work, often with little or no protection, to provide critical transportation for essential workers to the frontlines to fight this crisis. The virus has had a devastating impact on the ATU, as more than 80 of our frontline heroes have lost their lives and thousands have been infected with the coronavirus,” said Amalgamated Transit Union International President John Costa. “This emergency temporary standard is essential for workers in the transit industry, who have contact with many members of the riding public on a daily basis. Left to their own devices, employers will not take the necessary steps to protect Maryland’s workers. Employees deserve to know when this highly contagious disease has made its way into their workplace, and employers have a moral responsibility to take action to reduce the risk of exposure to their workers.”

“Clean Water Action and our environmental allies stand in solidarity with workers in asking for these vital protections,” said Emily Ranson, Maryland Director at Clean Water Action. “We are asking for these emergency temporary standards to keep people healthy as they work, day in and day out, on Maryland’s farms and in our meat processing plants, and as they’re picking up our trash and recycling and keeping the buses and trains running.”

“Maryland can be a national leader in restoring its state economy by mandating strong worker protections during this health crisis,” said Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director for Food & Water Watch. “Workers in meat processing plants and agricultural fields, for instance, are the backbone of many of Maryland’s local economies, and these workers should be protected given that their work sites have been seriously impacted by COVID-19.”

“More than a dozen other states have acted responsibly by issuing emergency safety measures to protect their workers from the risks of COVID-19. Maryland should recognize the importance of protecting those who are actively working and essential to a thriving economy,” said Katlyn Schmitt, Policy Analyst, Center for Progressive Reform.

“Black and Latinx workers and other workers of color in the State of Maryland are more likely to be in frontline jobs, and their communities have disproportionate rates of illness and death from COVID-19. The governor must step up and require Maryland OSHA to do its job and issue an Emergency Temporary Standard,” said Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Safety and Health Program Director at the National Employment Law Project.

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