For Immediate Release: April 28, 2021
Media Contact: Dan Morris. 917-952-8920.
On Workers Memorial Day, Essential Workers Rally at Cuomo’s NYC Office for NY HERO Act
Workers deliver letter to Cuomo signed by employees in industries most exposed to the spread of COVID-19.
NEW YORK, NY – Essential workers rallied at Gov. Cuomo’s Midtown office today for the NY HERO Act, as pressure mounts for the Governor to sign the legislation. This legislation would set in place lasting standards to protect workers against the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne infectious diseases, as well as giving workers a voice in how those standards are promoted.
Standing in front of a banner resembling a blue mask that read, “50K Dead, Still No Protections, Pass NY HERO” and flyers visualizing daily reported COVID-19 deaths over the past 90 days, workers at the rally explained why the bill was necessary to protect the state’s most vulnerable workers, who have gone more than a year without any meaningful standards in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
“Almost 52,000 New Yorkers have lost their lives to COVID-19 and countless others have been wounded, physically and mentally. So many died just because they were deemed essential and had no choice but to go to work. They were left unprotected and ended up paying the highest price as they sacrificed their lives working to keep our city and state running for all of us,” said Flandersia James, a nurse at BronxCare Hospital and member of the New York State Nurses Association who spoke at the rally. “I am pleading with Governor Cuomo to not waste one more minute and to sign the NY HERO Act. It is such a simple thing to do to honor our essential workers. It is a necessary thing to do as more workers return to work in person. They deserve to have guidelines in place that protect their health and well-being.”
Workers also delivered a letter to Gov. Cuomo, signed by more than a dozen workers representing industries whose workers have been most exposed to the spread of the virus, including Amazon and other warehouse workers, grocery workers, homecare attendants, healthcare workers, and farmworkers.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about getting infected with this lethal virus while doing our jobs, but many of us do. In our workplaces, when we lack adequate health and safety protections against COVID-19, we have no recourse and nowhere to go,” read the letter. “We’re called essential, but too often treated as disposable and expendable. Calling us heroes will not help us. What will help us is the NY HERO Act.”
The rally fell on Workers Memorial Day, an annual commemoration paying respect to workers who have lost their lives in the workplace over the past year.
The bill has overwhelmingly passed both the Assembly and State Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature.
Yesterday, a dozen of the state’s largest unions sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo, calling on him to sign the bill immediately, citing the spread of new COVID-19 variants in New York that could put more workers at risk as the state reopens.
“I am calling on Governor Cuomo to do more than call essential workers like myself heroes. We need Governor Cuomo to sign the NY HERO Act immediately to protect us,” said Dr. Monisha Savarimuthu, a Psychiatry Resident at Harlem Hospital and member of the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU, who spoke at the rally. “By signing the NY HERO Act into law, Governor Cuomo will make NY the leader on protecting workers by becoming the first state to create a standard to fight this pandemic and any future airborne infectious diseases.
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 directs the state Department of Labor to put in place lasting new protections, including protocols around face masks, PPE, social distancing, and airflow. It also gives workers a a say in those standards through workplace Health and Safety Committees.
The campaign for the NY HERO Act 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. More than 100 community and labor organizations have backed the legislation.
The full text of the letter delivered to Gov. Cuomo today is below:
Dear New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo:
We are among millions of essential workers who are risking our lives every day to keep New York safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is far from over–thousands of New Yorkers continue to pass away from COVID-19 each month, and every day, people in our communities are getting sick.
We shouldn’t have to worry about getting infected with this lethal virus while doing our jobs, but many of us do. In our workplaces, when we lack adequate health and safety protections against COVID-19, we have no recourse and nowhere to go.
That’s why we’re writing to you today. We urge you to sign the NY HERO Act (A02681-B/S01034-B) into law without delay. It’s a vital legislation that will build upon the work the state has already done, creating permanent enforceable health and safety standards that will protect essential workers like us and businesses against viruses like COVID-19.
The COVID-19 vaccines will take months to reach all of us. And they’re not a substitute for the health and safety protections the New York HERO Act can provide us, if you enact the bill quickly.
Many of us have been forced to work without masks and gloves. We have been jammed into vans and employer housing without an inch of room between us, let alone six feet. As the importance of ventilation has become clear, our employers have taken no action to ensure proper airflow. When we have spoken up for our rights, we have been threatened and retaliated against. Some of us have been fired and hospitalized as a result of contracting the virus at work.
Almost all of us have lost co-workers, friends, and families to COVID-19 over the past year.
We’re called essential, but too often treated as disposable and expendable.
We’re tired. We’re angry. We’re frustrated. What we’ve experienced during this pandemic, we should never have to experience again.
Calling us heroes will not help us.
What will help us is the NY HERO Act. We offered input on this bill as leaders of the Essential Workers Coalition, which includes more than 70 labor unions, worker centers, immigrants rights groups, labor advocacy organizations, and health and safety organizations across the state.
We perform difficult and demanding jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, grocery stores, e-commerce warehouses, and many other settings. We pick up waste to keep New York’s streets clean, take care of New York’s COVID-19 patients in hospitals and nursing homes, stock the shelves of grocery stores, deliver food and packages to New Yorkers, and much more.
Without us, New York’s economy and businesses cannot function.
We know so much more about COVID-19 than we did a year ago. We know that we need enforceable health and safety standards to avoid getting sick and dying at work.
We know we need the opportunity to form health and safety committees to work with our employers to implement the critical safety plans that the NY HERO Act requires.
We know that we need you to sign the NY HERO Act into law right away.
Angela Figaro, Home Attendant, Brooklyn – New York Communities for Change
Araceli Torres, Nail Salon Worker, Bronx – NY Nail Salon Worker Association
Arturo Cruz, Farm Worker, Livingston County – Alianza Agrícola
Beatriz Ramirez, Laundromat Worker, Queens – Laundromat Worker Center
Dr. Oluyemi Otoso, EM Resident at Lincoln Hospital, Bronx – Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU
Felipe Ministro, Deli Worker, Manhattan – Cabrini Immigrant Services
Flandersia Jones, Registered Nurse, Bronx – New York State Nurses Association
Gerardo Rocha, Warehouse Worker, Goshen – UFCW 2013
Jalil Muntaqim, Community Organizer, Rochester – Citizen Action Rochester Chapter
Karina Pimentel, Supermarket Worker, Yonkers – Local 338 RWDSU/ UFCW
Michael Digiussepe, Senior Master Diesel Technician, Lindenhurst – Suffolk County UAW Local 259/ Region 9A
Owen Chari, Uber Driver, Manhattan – Retail Action Project
Paulette Thompson, School Bus Driver, New York City
Rina Cummings, Amazon Warehouse Worker, Staten Island – Make the Road New York
Silvia Gaston, Household Cleaner, Queens – Make the Road New York