For Immediate Release:
April 19th, 2021
Contact: Patrick Nevada, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646.866.9065
Essential Workers Cheer NYS Assembly for Passing NY HERO Act, Urge Cuomo to Sign Bill Immediately as New COVID Variants Spread
Albany, NY – Today, essential workers applauded the New York State Assembly for passing crucial, first-of-its-kind legislation that will protect their workplaces and communities against COVID-19 and future airborne infectious diseases. They are now calling Governor Cuomo to sign the bill immediately to halt the spread of dangerous new variants of the lethal disease as New York reopens.
This afternoon, by a vote of 100 – 50, the New York State Assembly passed the NY HERO Act (S.1034A/A02681-B), a bill that will protect millions of workers and businesses on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York State Senate also overwhelmingly passed the legislation in March. The bill now heads to the State Senate for a procedural vote, after which it will go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his signature.
If passed into law, the NY HERO Act will be the first law in the country to mandate permanent standards to guard against airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The legislation will create new, lasting health and safety protections to reduce the spread not just of COVID-19 but other infectious and occupational diseases, including enforceable standards covering face masks, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection, and improve airflow. It would also give workers a stronger say in the safety of their workplace by empowering them to develop joint employee and employer Health and Safety Committees, which will empower workers to identify health and safety concerns and review new safety standards.
The NY HERO Act is the latest in growing efforts by states and localities to put in place new safety standards to protect essential workers, who took a disproportionate toll as the pandemic spread over the past year. Last November, Los Angeles County passed a law similar to the NY HERO Act that would allow workers to set up “public health councils” to help ensure their employers follow coronavirus safety guidelines.
With a majority of New Yorkers still unvaccinated against COVID-19, coalition members are calling on Gov. Cuomo to sign the bill promptly when it reaches his desk, particularly in light of the dangerous spread of new COVID variants as New York’s economy re-opens.
The NY Essential Workers Coalition has led the NY HERO Act campaign–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.
“The NY HERO Act is critical for New York’s recovery from COVID-19. This legislation will ensure that millions of New Yorkers can do their jobs safely and businesses can reopen without risking more COVID outbreaks. That is how we will build our state back and better than ever before and become a model for the rest of the country,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. “Thank you Assemblymember Reyes for spearheading this critical legislation and the Assembly for passing it today, Senator Gianaris for being a champion in the Senate, and all our allies in Albany for putting workers’ health and safety first. Now Governor Cuomo has an opportunity to thank all of the essential workers who sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic by signing this bill into law.”
“As the pandemic continues, workplace safety must be a priority. The NY HERO Act will provide the enforceable standards that workers and communities need to stay safe. Senator Gianaris, Assembly Member Reyes and many allies in Albany have championed this bill and given a voice to workers when they needed it most. We look forward to seeing the bill signed into law,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
“We applaud Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblymember Karines Reyes, and the entire NYS Assembly for standing up for our essential workers who have been on the frontlines of this dual public health and economic crisis. By passing the NY HERO Act, New York is sending a clear message that all workers deserve safe working environments. The devastating infection rate and death toll that continues to ravage New Yorkers, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, shows that the status quo is broken— workers must have meaningful workplace health and safety protections, with real enforcement. This legislation is a long-overdue step to ensure all workers are protected on the job, and we call on Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1.
“The NY Hero Act will make New York among the first states to enact a strong infectious airborne disease standard, along with enforceable labor regulations and health and safety protocols to protect all workers,” commented Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, President of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). “It’s the least NY can do for essential workers, who sacrificed so much during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep this state running. The 42,000 members of the New York State Nurses Association applaud the many labor and community allies, as well as the Leaders—and sponsors and advocates–within both the Assembly and the Senate, for their commitment and work to get this done. We look forward to this bill being signed into law and to the day when no worker has to choose between life and livelihood.”
“Teamsters Joint Council 16 applauds passage of the NY Hero Act, which will help protect the workers who have kept New York functioning during the pandemic. Ensuring that employers provide a safe, healthy workplace and that workers have a voice in their own safety is a crucial step forward. Thank you to Speaker Heastie, Assemblyperson Reyes, and most importantly the broad coalition of essential workers throughout New York who moved this important piece of legislation forward. We look forward to this Bill being signed into law as quickly as possible,” said Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16.
“Immigrant and BIPOC New Yorkers have too long faced the impossible choice of maintaining their health or their jobs, at great cost to their family security and well-being during this pandemic,” said Murad Awawdeh, Interim Co-Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition. “As one-third of New York State’s frontline workers, they have been risking their lives to treat those stricken with COVID-19, stock our grocery shelves, take care of our elderly, pick our produce, and more to keep this state running in a time of crisis. They and all workers deserve to work in safe conditions without fear of reprisal or losing their jobs—whether they work in offices in Manhattan or hospitals in Buffalo or the fields of the Hudson Valley. We commend Speaker Heastie and Assembly Member Reyes for their leadership on this issue and urge Governor Cuomo to sign this into law immediately.”
“This legislation is critical to keeping workers safe during and after the pandemic. The vaccines are an amazing step forward, but we need to do more so that workers know that they are safe on the job and will not be spreading Covid-19 in their communities and to their loved ones. This legislation–creating a first-in-the-nation permanent airborne disease standard–does just that,” said Charlene Obernauer, Executive Director of NYCOSH.
“Thank you to the NYS Assembly for voting yes on the NY HERO Act, a law that will create long overdue worker protections from COVID and other airborne diseases. Workers have sacrificed so much during this pandemic; from medical first responders, to farmworkers, to domestic workers, it is thanks to them that we have been able to survive this crisis. Thank you to all the workers and organizations across the state that have fought for this victory. We now look to Governor Cuomo to make good on his promise to protect all workers in NY and immediately sign NY HERO into law,” said Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, Food Chain Workers Alliance.
“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 the legislature for recognizing the urgency of 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. Now is the time for Governor Cuomo to sign this life-saving legislation into law.”
“Even during a pandemic, nail 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,” said Gloria Tenecela, member leader at the NY Nail Salon Workers Association. “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 Assemblymember Reyes and Speaker Heastie for their leadership in passing the NY HERO bill and we urge the Governor to sign this bill right away.”
“Our immigrants and community of color have been the most affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NY Heroes Act will make a difference by creating the necessary standards to protect and give the voice that low-wage and excluded workers need at their workplaces. As a laundromat worker, I have learned that health and safety are our rights and that vaccines are a crucial step, but with NY Heroes, our state would be ready for any future infection disease. We thank Assembly Member Reyes for her leadership! This victory is for all workers” said Beatriz Ramirez, member leader Laundry Workers Center
“On behalf of our 13,000 plus members in UFCW Local 2013, we want to thank Speaker Heastie and Assembly member Reyes for their leadership in ensuring passage of the HERO bill in the Assembly today, and to Senator Gianaris for championing the bill in the Senate. Our members are all essential workers and have been on the front lines throughout this pandemic. They work in warehouses, as home health aides, in assisted living facilities, manufacturing and parking garages, They often worked with inadequate PPE .Over this past year 1,000 of our members contracted COVID. Sadly close to 40 died. They had to work with the constant fear that they were not protected and would bring the virus home to their families. As the pandemic continues our essential workers must be protected. Having enforceable safety standards is crucial. This bill sends a clear message that workers deserve safe working conditions and for their voice to be heard. We are calling on Governor Cuomo to protect the workers he has called heroes and sign this bill,” said Louis Mark Carotenuto, President of UFCW Local 2013.
“The New York State Assembly took a necessary step by passing the NY HERO Act. As our state’s workers, including two million undocumented essential workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep our economy and communities running, they need enforceable safety standards. More than 51,000 New Yorkers have lost their lives to this pandemic. We cannot mourn or recover until we have done everything we can to save lives,” said FWD.us New York Immigration State Director Eddie A. Taveras. “When all New Yorkers are safe, our entire state benefits. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign it into law without delay, and appreciate Speaker Carl E. Heastie and Assembly Member Karines Reyes for their leadership on this crucial issue. Every day without the NY HERO Act being signed into law puts New Yorkers’ lives at risk.”
“UFCW Local 1500 is incredibly excited of the progress being made on the NY HERO ACT and are proud of the NYS assembly, and especially Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Karines Reyes, for getting this bill passed. Too many essential workers, hard working union members and non union workers, have been left to flounder for too long. This bill sends a loud and clear message that workers deserve a safe working environment and New Yorkers won’t let unsafe conditions slide. Workers know what they need and they need legislation that keeps them safe, ensures their protections, and we call on Governor Cuomo to pass the bill into law as soon as possible,” said Robert Newell Jr, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union local 1500.
“This critical legislation will ensure that our clients – the majority of whom are from Black and Latinx communities, and many of whom have been providing a critical service throughout the pandemic – are both properly protected from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and employer retaliation related to raising health concerns. As New York continues to grapple with more contagious variants of the virus and a stubbornly high positivity rate, we call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign this legislation the moment it reaches his desk. The Legal Aid Society lauds our allies in the Legislature for prioritizing and advancing this needed legislation,” said Young Lee, Director of the Employment Law Unit with the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society.
“Unsafe work conditions have fueled the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, as well as its devastating, disproportionate impact on communities of color. Essential workers, who shouldered the burden of keeping New York running and keeping the public safe, must never again be placed at risk for life-threatening exposures that could have – and should have – been prevented. Enacting sound, just and enforceable worker health and safety protections is not just the right thing to do; it’s key to ending this pandemic and preventing spread of any infectious diseases that emerge in the future. Our thanks to the Legislature for learning the lessons of COVID-19 and showing the leadership we need to keep all New Yorkers safe as we achieve our new normal. Governor Cuomo, sign NY HERO to fortify New York now and in the future,” said Kimberly Flynn, Director, 9/11 Environmental Action.