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Unions Address Coronavirus Safety Concerns

By David Boehrer | Posted on September 25, 2020

Unions are stepping up to protect workers from harm during the coronavirus pandemic with health and safety measures, paid sick leave, and job security.

Unions Take Aim at Workplace Coronavirus Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of unions by giving workers a collective voice to speak out about hazards in the workplace. During the pandemic, many union workers have benefited from enhanced work-related safety measures, paid sick time, added premium pay, and a voice in work-share arrangements and furlough terms to ensure job preservation.

Unions are expressing concerns about workplace safety for members across the country. While unions with large memberships and adequate resources are making a positive impact on workplace safety measures, unions with low funds are not able to organize large safety campaigns. Unions with inadequate resources are facing unpaid union dues and worker layoffs. The hotel and restaurant industry has been especially hard-hit during the pandemic. Of the millions of workers filing for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, more than half are workers in the hospitality, restaurant, and retail sectors. Thousands of service-industry workers have filed claims with workers’ comp lawyers to address injuries and job safety.

With the spread of COVID-19 and a significant rise in injuries and deaths, many employers face high rates of absenteeism caused by illness and workers’ fears of contracting the virus in the workplace. Trade unions are diligently working with union employers to ensure that ill workers do not return to work out of misguided loyalty to their employers and/or colleagues or from fear of losing their jobs. Unions are also reminding employers that they will still be covered by the Working Time Regulations, so working employees are not pressured to work long hours and excessive overtime to compensate for ill absentee workers.

For decades, unions and workers’ rights advocates have fought for workplace reforms that protect the health and safety of American workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a national spotlight on U.S. labor laws that fail to protect American workers. With millions of workers now facing the possibility of coronavirus illness and death, the country has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 work-related injury claims and lawsuits filed with workers’ comp lawyers. Workers in service industries, especially low-wage workers, are significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. These workers tragically make up a large proportion of the people who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

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