On Workers Memorial Day, NELP Urges Administration to Release Promised COVID Worker Protection Standards

BLS Fatality Data Reveal Workplace Hazards’ Heavy Toll on Black and Latinx Workers

Washington, DC—Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“On this Workers Memorial Day, we call on the Biden administration to immediately publish in the Federal Register the promised Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from COVID-19. Every day without this standard is another day that COVID spreads in the workplace and out into communities.

“Essential and frontline workers—including people working in health care, meatpacking and poultry plants, supermarkets, warehouses, mass transit, emergency response, retail, and restaurants—have all risked their health and their lives during the pandemic to keep on working for the benefit of all of us. This workforce is disproportionately comprised of Black and Latinx workers, whose communities are more likely to face serious illness and death related to COVID-19.

By issuing this long-overdue COVID workplace safety standard, the Biden-Harris administration can affirm its commitment to protecting workers on the job and holding employers accountable if they cut corners and put workers at needless risk.

“Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that, even before COVID, Black and Latinx workers (including immigrants) work in the most dangerous jobs. In its December release, the Bureau reported that, in 2019, Black and Latinx workers suffered higher fatality rates than all other workers. The Bureau also found that the number of Black workers killed on the job in 2019 increased to the highest total since 1999 and that Latinx worker fatalities rose by 13 percent last year—the highest numbers since 1992.

“COVID-19 is not only the greatest public health crisis of our time but also the single largest occupational health crisis in a generation. We know that workplace exposures have been a significant driver of the pandemic. The government’s workplace safety agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, must be allowed to publish the standard they have written so that people can be safe at work.

“Protecting workers is not only a legal and moral imperative. It’s an economic and human rights imperative. When the last administration failed to protect workers, it affected the health and wellbeing of all our families and communities. By mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, this new emergency standard will help us fully reopen our economy.

“On this Workers Memorial Day, to honor all the workers who lost their lives or suffered from COVID-19, the administration must publish an Emergency Temporary Standard and underscore its commitment to protect workers on the job and to hold employers accountable if they cut corners and put their workers at needless risk.”

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About the Author

Rebecca Dixon

Areas of expertise:
  • Occupational Segregation,
  • Program Management,
  • Unemployment Insurance,
  • Workplace Equity

NELP is led by President and Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Dixon. Rebecca is a respected national leader in federal workers’ rights advocacy and is in great demand for her thought leadership on issues of labor and racial, gender, and economic justice.

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