This morning, the National AFL-CIO filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the U.S. Court of Appeals to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) protecting U.S. workers against the coronavirus.
The petition demonstrates that thousands of workers have been infected on the job through exposure to infected patients, co-workers, and unscreened members of the public. As the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and health experts predict the already shocking number of infections and deaths among workers will rise. In a statement regarding the filing, National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka detailed the urgency of this action:
“It’s truly a sad day in America when working people must sue the organization tasked with protecting our health and safety, but we’ve been left no choice. Millions are infected and nearly 90,000 have died, so it’s beyond urgent that action is taken to protect workers who risk our lives daily to respond to this public health emergency. If the Trump administration refuses to act, we must compel them to.”
Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor explained why this issue is impactful to working Oregonians given the latest developments of the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Oregon is in the process of reopening our economy, with the majority of counties beginning Phase 1 reopening last week. This is a critical moment for workplace safety and for protecting workers - as Oregon and states across the country reopen economies, we need to be assured that the Federal Government is doing everything to protect worker safety. We haven’t had any such assurance, and Oregon’s Unions applaud the National AFL-CIO for calling out the Trump administration’s unacceptable response through this lawsuit.”
The petition filed earlier this morning follows an April 28th letter from President Trumka to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, calling for action from OSHA. The National AFL-CIO, together with 23 national unions, also petitioned OSHA to issue an ETS on March 6th. To date, OSHA has taken no action on the petitions.