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March 1st, 2021

Contact: Patrick Nevada,, 646.866.9065

Essential Workers Applaud New York State Senate for Passing COVID Safety Bill, Urge Assembly, Governor Cuomo to Act Immediately as Dangerous New Variant Spreads

Albany, NY -Today, Essential workers applauded the New York State Senate for passing vital legislation that will protect them against COVID-19. And they  urged the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to take action on the bill immediately in order to halt the spread of a dangerous new variant of the lethal disease.

This afternoon, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed the NY HERO Act by a vote of 46-16, a bill that will protect millions of workers and businesses on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation will create permanent workplace health and safety protections to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious and occupational diseases. Indeed, the NY HERO Act will create enforceable standards covering face masks, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and engineering controls to improve ventilation. It would also allow workers to create joint employee/employer Health and Safety Committees to have a voice in creating safe workplaces.

The NY HERO Act campaign has been led by the NY Essential Workers Coalition–A statewide group made up of over 75 unions, worker centers, immigrant rights organizations, legal service providers, health and safety organizations, and community based organizations.

Citing reports of new and dangerous variants of COVID-19 members of the coalition celebrated the passage of the NY HERO Act in the senate and called on the New York State Assembly to immediately pass the bill and move it to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, an advocacy organization that created the NY Essential Workers Coalition to fight for passage of the NY HERO Act said, “The NY HERO Act will save lives, protect essential workers, and enable businesses across the state to keep running amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud the State Senate for passing this urgent legislation today. Now the Assembly and Governor must do the same, and make the NY HERO Act a reality immediately. COVID vaccines are not a substitute for the enforceable and permanent workplace health and safety protections that the NY HERO Act will provide. As new, more dangerous variants of COVID continue to spread throughout New York, the NY HERO Act will help ensure that workers and businesses are fully protected.”

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said, “As the pandemic has highlighted yet again, workplace safety must be prioritized. We need the enforceable standards at the state level provided in this bill to keep all working New Yorkers safe. No worker should be forced to sacrifice their health and safety in order to earn a living. I want to thank Senator Gianaris for spearheading this critical legislation and the Senate for passing it today, Assembly Member Reyes for being a champion in the Assembly, and all our allies in Albany for putting workers health and safety first. Now let’s get it signed into law.”

Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1 said, “New York’s essential workers have been the backbone of our State throughout this pandemic. Yet too many working people have lost their lives due to a lack of enforceable health and safety standards in the workplace. As the virus continues to infect and kill hundreds every single day, NY Hero is urgently needed both in order to protect workers against airborne infectious diseases and to establish workplace committees that ensure workers have a voice in the safety of their workplaces. I commend the Senate for passing this lifesaving legislation today and am deeply grateful to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris for their leadership. I urge the Assembly to quickly follow suit.”

Judy Gonzalez, President of the New York State Nurses Association said, “As the state’s infection and hospitalization rates continue to stay dangerously high, and the variant virus strains threaten to spread rapidly, swift action must be taken—NOW–to protect so-called essential workers, the vast majority of whom are Black and Brown, and who’ve historically suffered from the worst health indices and lack of access to quality health care.Workers who continue to put ourselves on the front lines still lack any enforceable standard that provides for protection from airborne infections: PPE, ventilation, engineering controls and a voice. The absence of such a standard resulted in disproportionate rates of infection, complications, and death. We’re grateful for Senators Gianaris and Ramos, and the Labor Committee, for putting forward the NY Hero Act. Essential workers are not expendable.”

Gloria Tenecela, member leader at the NY Nail Salon Workers Association said, “Even during a pandemic, salon owners are still not taking responsibility to provide us with more protection. I go to work so I can provide for my daughters, but I know that it is risky. I am worried because workers and customers could bring the disease home and infect their families. Nothing will change if we remain silent. We need laws that protect us at work and protect our right to speak out and demand the proper PPE so we can take care of our health. We thank the NY Senate for passing the NY HERO bill and look forward to swift passage in the Assembly as well.”

“We applaud Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris for their leadership in advancing the NY Hero Act to the Senate floor for a vote today,” said Beverley Brakeman, United Auto Workers Region 9A Regional Director. “The NY Hero Act will ensure every worker benefits from the same health and safety standards so that they can perform their job safely, especially throughout the pandemic. These health and safety standards are also enforceable which was the critical missing piece to making sure that employers are doing what is required of them to protect their workers. We look forward to the bill’s passage today, and we urge the Assembly to quickly follow suit.”

Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) said, “NY HERO is essential to ensuring that COVID-19 guidelines, which are currently optional, can be enforced by New York State. This will keep workers safer, communities safer, and is essential to our recovery. We are beyond grateful to Senator Gianaris for his leadership on COVID-19 and for advocating hand in hand with us to support workers.”

Louis Mark Carotenuto, President of UFCW Local 2013 said, “We are almost a year into a Global Pandemic with over 40,000 New Yorkers’ lives lost and we still have no enforceable workplace safety standards… This is completely unacceptable at a time when we are battling mutated strains of the virus that are said to be even more contagious with very little known about their resistance to the current vaccines. We thank the Senate for their leadership in passing the NY HERO act. Now It’s time for the Assembly to come together and act on this legislation and GET IT PASSED in order to protect the workers on the frontlines.”

Rosanna Rodriguez of the Laundry Workers Center said, “After almost a year in a pandemic that has caused more than 47k death workers still don’t have any protections. Our heroes fought in the first and second’ s Covid- 19 wave and continued putting their lives at risk. We can’t wait until people get vaccinated. We need real standards like NY HEROES ACT. It’s crucial that we provide the basic protections to workers. As we continue the struggle; we appreciate the leadership of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Karines Reyes.”

Jessica Maxwell, director of the Workers Center of Central New York, said “As workers stepped up to lead our communities through this pandemic, It’s unconscionable that they have had to wait almost a year to receive robust, enforceable health and safety standards. Farmworkers are still not eligible for the vaccine in NYS and we continue to hear every week from farmworkers whose rights are being violated and who are being pressured to work in unsafe situations. We’re thrilled the Senate has passed this crucial legislation to give workers the tools they need to protect themselves, and now we look to the Assembly to stand up for workers.”

Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, lead organizer with the Food Chain Workers Alliance said, “We are glad that the NY Senate is taking proactive steps to create long overdue protections for workers in New York. It’s been a year since the pandemic hit our state, and for many workers in different industries the work never stopped. On the contrary,  workers in the food chain have continued to work to ensure that we have food on our table during this crisis. NY owes it to them, and to the thousands of workers now returning to their jobs, to have protocols in place to protect them from Covid and other  infectious diseases. We look to the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to do the same and pass The NY HERO Act as soon as possible.”

Brian Brown-Cashdollar, Interim Director of the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health said, “The NY Hero Act will be a historic advance in workers’ rights and worker protections. We are proud of the strong bi-partisan support from WNY Senators in advancing this bill.”

Ivette Alfonso, President of Citizen Action of New York said, “When non-essential businesses closed, it was predominantly Black, brown, low-income and immigrant communities that kept New York running. We have seen Covid-19 outbreaks at businesses run by mega corporations like Amazon while their CEOs made off with record profits at the expense of their employees. The NY HERO Act is long overdue—it would establish the basic workplace protections that should already be in place, like mandatory Covid-19 testing and employer provided PPE, regularly sanitized work stations, alloted time for handwashing, and adherence to social distancing guidelines. Workers deserve a standard of protection and the ability to hold reckless employers accountable. This is the best solution to protect communities who are most vulnerable and have been hit the hardest. We applaud the Senate for their leadership, and urge the Assembly to bring this bill up for a vote immediately.”

Paul Sonn, State Policy Program Director at the National Employment Law Project said “New York’s Black and brown frontline workers have sustained our state through the pandemic yet still don’t have the type of enforceable basic health and safety protections they need to keep themselves, their families and our communities safe. We thank Senator Gianaris and Assembly Member Karines Reyes for their leadership in moving this vital legislation.”

Theodore A. Moore, Senior Director of Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition said, “COVID-19 has had an immense impact on workers, communities, and small businesses all across New York. We know that every day counts in keeping people safe and healthy.  That is why the NY HERO Act is so important to not only the recovery of our state from the current pandemic but protection from future airborne infectious diseases. The Senate has taken a strong step to ensure worker safety and we call on the Assembly and Governor Cuomo to finish the job.”

“No New Yorker should have to face the impossible choice between their health and their paycheck– yet too many, especially Black and Latinx essential workers, have been left without protections for far too long,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “We thank Chair Jessica Ramos and the Senate Labor Committee for recognizing the urgency of enacting enforceable regulations to prevent the spread of airborne infectious diseases in all workplaces, and for providing workers with tools to end retaliation for raising health and safety concerns.  We urge the State Assembly to pass the NY HERO Act without delay, and for Governor Cuomo to sign this life-saving legislation into law.”

“The State Senate took the right and moral step today in passing the NY HERO Act to protect New York workers, including more than 2 million undocumented essential workers across our state. This bill will ensure that farm workers, domestics workers, restaurant workers, among others have lifesaving protections regardless of their immigration status to fight this pandemic,” said Eddie A. Taveras, New York State Immigration Director at “When workers are equipped with the tools necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, the broader community and the state’s economy will benefit. In passing this bill, New York is ensuring that we are doing everything we can to save lives and avoid shutdowns, a non-viable solution when families and small businesses have rent due on the first of the month.”

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage our state, the NY HERO Act will establish uniform health and safety standards to protect all essential workers from COVID-19 and future airborne diseases to keep workers safe while minimizing outbreaks. I am grateful to Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Karines Reyes for their leadership on this issue, and urge the State Assembly to urgently pass this important piece of legislation. Not another life should be lost because we waited too long to act.”

“Our clients and all essential workers who have kept New York running during this unprecedented public health crisis deserve adequate workplace protections and safety standards,” said Abigail Cook-Mack, Staff Attorney in the Employment Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “The NY HERO Act is critical to ensure that workers stay safe, to mitigate the devastating impact that the pandemic has already caused, and to ensure that workers are protected against future crises like the one we face now. We thank the Senate for its leadership and urge the Assembly to follow suit quickly. Lives depend on it.”