Press Release

Health Care COVID-19 ETS Good Start, More Work Needed

Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issuing a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for health care workers:

Fifteen months into this pandemic, health care workers will finally have enforceable OSHA protections that will require their employers to provide prevention measures to keep them safe from COVID-19 at work. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh should be commended for taking this overdue step to care for the workers who care for us.

But we are deeply concerned that the ETS will not cover workers in other industries, including those in meatpacking, grocery, transportation and corrections, who have suffered high rates of COVID-19 infections and death. Many of these are low-wage workers of color who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 exposures and infections. Throughout the pandemic, they have had to go to work in crowded, indoor settings with poor ventilation. Many of these workers still face barriers to vaccination and remain at serious risk of exposure and infection. 

Under President Biden’s leadership, America has made great strides to defeat COVID-19. Infections and hospitalizations are plummeting. The vaccine is working. But for too many working people, the threat of contracting the virus remains. From the beginning, we have called for an ETS to keep all workers safe from COVID-19. Voluntary guidelines are not enough. Workers need enforceable protections to prevent the spread of the virus, like controlling airborne exposures and reporting outbreaks. 

We urge OSHA to use its full authority to enforce the new ETS for health care workers as well as all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA guidelines to protect workers not covered by this standard.

Contact: Carolyn Bobb (202)-637-5018