Worker Health and Safety Agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has been advocating for safe, healthy workplaces for over 4 decades. In this session, we advocate for the following policies and legislation that will bring us closer to our mission to ensure that all workers can go to work, earn a fair wage, be treated with respect and dignity, and return home to their families alive and well. 

 

Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent and protect against COVID-19 and its impact 
 
Data and Reporting: Full implementation of An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment passed in June 2020, which requires collecting occupation and other data on COVID-19 infections and deaths. Months later, occupation is still missing on approximately 90% of daily reported cases. This continuing failure makes it extremely difficult to track, report, investigate and contain workplace exposure accurately.
 
Workers Compensation Occupational Presumption: Workers who get sick from the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 from exposure at work must receive the workers' compensation benefits they are due to ensure they don’t have to use their own paid time off or sick time to quarantine, treat or recover from COVID-19. HD3660: An Act creating a presumption of relatedness for essential workers suffering from COVID-19 filed by Representative Ken Gordon creates “occupational presumption” to ensure that any worker reporting to work outside their home who has any contact with any other person at the workplace or in connection with work, who is exposed to SARS-CoV-2 is presumed to have been exposed at work. It will provide support for workers who don’t have access to expanded paid sick time, workers who have no health insurance, and workers’ compensation to pay for the costs of treatment for COVID-19. In the tragic event a worker dies from COVID-19 they contracted at work, workers' compensation provides death benefits to spouses and children.
 
Resources to Enforce COVID-19 Worker Health and Safety Protections: Enforcement of the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Regulations is given to Local Boards of Health (LBOH) and the Department of Labor Standards (DLS). Neither of these has the staff or resources to enforce these protections on the scale necessary. Funds must be allocated to provide additional resources to both DLS and LBOH to hire/train inspectors and conduct inspections, analyze data, etc. 
 
Emergency Paid Sick Time: To ensure that all those who feel sick or may have been exposed to COVID-19 stay home and avoid exposing others to the virus, all workers must have the ability to miss work to care for themselves or their family, without losing the pay they need to make ends meet. HD531/S386: An Act Relative to Emergency Paid Sick Time filed by Representative Donato, and Senator Lewis would provide ten additional work-days (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 outbreak. This Emergency Paid Sick Time would be available to employees not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)’s paid sick time provisions.

Stimulus Checks for Immigrant Taxpayers: SD126: An Act to Provide Equal Stimulus Checks to Immigrant Taxpayers filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge will provide stimulus checks to immigrant taxpayers who were excluded from the stimulus provisions of the federal CARES Act.

Hazard Pay for Workers: This pandemic has laid bare how intertwined public health and the economy are – and how absolutely vital working people are to keeping every family safe, secure, healthy, and fed. There are currently tens of thousands of Massachusetts workers reporting to the job outside of their homes, putting their health and the health of their families on the line each day. These workers we all depend on are on the front lines of exposure to this virus, in too many cases without the adequate personal protective equipment they so desperately need, and many are still struggling to pay their bills. HD1299: An Act Providing Hazard Pay and Protection for Essential Workers During a “Declaration of a State of Emergency” sponsored by Representative Maria Duaime Robinson will provide hazard pay for private-sector workers. HD876: An Act Relative to Public Employees Performing Core Functions will provide hazard pay for public sector workers.
 
Vaccine Access and Equity: HD1283/SD699: An Act effectuating equity in COVID-19 vaccination filed by Representative Liz Miranda and Senator Rebecca Raucsh will create a Director of COVID-19 Vaccination Equity and Outreach whose sole and full-time responsibility will be to work with trusted community partners to plan and implement actions to overcome disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates rooted in historical and current racism; biases based on ethnicity, income, primary language, immigration status, or disability; geography; or transportation access, language access, or internet access. 
 
Strengthen and enforce worker safety laws and regulations 
 
Employers that Fail to Protect Workers should not get Public Contracts of Permits: HD1943/SD229 An Act Relative to Workplace Safety and Disclosure of Violations filed by Representative Michelle Dubois and Senator Paul Feeney would protect Massachusetts taxpayers, law-abiding businesses, and workers who are employed by contractors that do business with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and/or are involved in excavation work and will require companies seeking to do business with the Commonwealth, or seeking a trenching permit to report their record of safety violations. The Commonwealth will be able to avoid contracting with companies with a poor record of safety, thereby preventing future injuries and deaths.
 
Expand funding for Enforcement of the Massachusetts Public Sector OSHA LawExpand the budget for the Department of Labor Standards by increasing the State budget line item and by approval of our OSHA Public Sector State Plan to bring in federal dollars.
 
Healthy, Safe Schools: SD407/HD943 An Act to Ensure the Health and Safety of the Commonwealth’s Students and Educators filed by Senator Paul Feeney, Representative Jim Hawkins, and Representative Tami Gouveia. This bill establishes new state ventilation requirements that current and future public school facilities must meet under both normal and pandemic conditions, mandates that school districts conduct assessments of school ventilation systems to ensure compliance, and creates a mechanism for state funding to support needed repairs and upgrades to school ventilation systems. It also requires the state to ensure the operation of weekly COVID-19 pooled surveillance testing programs in all public schools at no cost to school districts. It directs the state to ensure that all public school staff and students have access to PPE at no cost to school districts. Finally, it creates a special commission to study ventilation and air temperatures in public school facilities.
 
Protect Workers from Workplace Bullying: SD2426: An Act Addressing Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Harassment, without Regard to Protected Class Status while Promoting Healthy Workplaces filed by Senator Paul Feeney. Workplace bullying is the most serious form of employee mistreatment left largely unaddressed by current law. Most targets of severe workplace bullying have little or no recourse under Massachusetts law. This law would protect all employees from abusive mistreatment on an equal opportunity basis, filling a huge gap & will give severely bullied workers a right to seek damages. No longer will abused workers be left without legal protections. It is fair and efficient. It allows employers to minimize liability by preventing and responding to bullying situations. It also includes provisions that discourage weak or frivolous claims.

Progressive Revenue to Fund our Future: HD1018: An Act to Strengthen the Foundation of the Commonwealth Filed by Representative Mike Connolly and Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) increases the tax rate on unearned Part A interest and dividends, and Part C capital gains income to 9 percent while also creating exemptions to protect seniors, the disabled, and low- and middle-income individuals and families.HD1020/SD428: An Act relative to restoring corporate tax rates filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Mary Keefe increases the tax rate on corporate profits from 8 percent to the pre-2009 rate of 9.5 percent which could generate $375 million to $500 million annually from profitable businesses.HD452/SD173:An Act to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes and Create Progressive Revenue filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, Representative Christine Barber taxes profits shifted overseas by increasing the tax rate on Global Intangible Low Taxed Income. Joining other states in taxing GILTI could generate $200 million to $400 million annually. The Fair Share Constitutional Amendment sponsored by the Raise Up MA Coalition will is a proposal to amend the Massachusetts Constitution, creating an additional tax of four percentage points on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million to create approximately $2 billion a year in new revenue for Massachusetts.

Protect Workers from Workplace Violence: HD2632: An Act requiring health care employers to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence filed by Representative Denise Garlick. Nurses are assaulted on the job more than police officers and prison guards, with more than 70% of hospital emergency department nurses reporting being assaulted during their career. This bill would require healthcare employers to perform an annual safety risk assessment and, based on those findings, develop and implement programs to minimize workplace violence's danger to employees and patients. It would also provide time off for health care workers assaulted on the job to address legal issues and require semiannual reporting of assaults on health care employees.

Protect Nurses from Musculoskeletal Injuries: SD742/HD159: An Act relative to safe patient handling and mobility in certain health facilities filed by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Claire Cronin. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses and other healthcare workers suffer more musculoskeletal injuries than any other profession. This bill would require health care facilities to adopt and implement a safe patient handling program to identify, assess, and develop strategies to control the risk of injury to patients and health care workers associated with the lifting, transferring, repositioning, or movement of a patient or equipment.

Provide Fair Scheduling Practices:HD1546/SD412:An Act Relative to the Scheduling of Employees filed by Representatives Sean Garballey and Maria Duaime Robinson and Senator Marc Pacheco. The Fair Workweek Bill allows workers in restaurants, retail establishments, and the hospitality industry the chance to build stable lives for themselves and their families because for many, erratic work schedules make stability almost impossible. Hours can be assigned arbitrarily at an employer’s discretion and changed with no advance notice, leaving workers to cope with fluctuating paychecks and constant problems coordinating child and elder care, second and third jobs, and further education or professional development. Women, people of color, and low-wage workers are the most impacted.
 
Don't let employers silence workers
 
Protect Injured Workers from Retaliation: HD2576/SD1717 An Act to Protect Injured Workers During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic filed by Representative Tram Nguyen and Senator Jamie Eldridge strengthens anti-retaliation strengthens the anti-retaliation law, provides for an administrative complaint and investigation mechanism for enforcement, and otherwise addresses employer misconduct that prevents workers from receiving timely medical care and benefits. The law to protect report or seek care for a work-related injury or report or seek care for any COVID-19-related illness or report any exposure to COVID-19 and take appropriate measures as a result, including self-quarantining.

Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers
 
Stop Wage Theft: HD967/SD774: An Act to Prevent Wage Theft, Promote Employer Accountability, and Enhance Public Enforcement filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico, and Representative Dan Donahue clarifies responsibility for upholding labor standards and provide the Attorney General and workers with additional tools for holding violators accountable and recovering money wrongfully taken from workers and the Commonwealth.
 
Provide One Fair Wage: HD3462/SD1811: An Act Requiring One Fair Wage filed by Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Brandy Fluker Oakley and Senator Pat Jehlen. In the pandemic, service workers have become more vulnerable than ever. Tips are down by 50%, and workers are at the frontlines of enforcing public safety measures. We need to eliminate the tipped subminimum wage and raise ALL workers’ minimum wage to $15 an hour plus tips.
 
Safe workplaces for all
 
Provide Drivers’ Licenses Regardless of Immigration Status: HD448/SD273: An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility during and Subsequent to the COVID-19 Emergency filed by Representatives Christine Barber and Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Senators Brendon Crighton and Adam Gomez will enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license regardless of immigrant status while keeping out Commonwealth in full compliance with REAL ID requirements.
 
The Safe Communities Act: SD532/1165: An Act to Protect the Civil Rights and Safety of all Massachusetts Residents filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representatives Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda will ensure that everyone can seek medical care, emergency assistance, and protection without fear of deportation. 
 
Confront the workplace effects of climate change
 
Protect workers from heat stress and the impact of rising temperatures both indoors and outdoors, especially in schools. Increasing temperatures from climate change also pose a grave risk, especially for those that work outdoors or in hot indoor environments. High temperatures can pose health threats daily, including confusion, fatigue, and dehydration. More extreme heat can lead to heatstroke and organ failure, depending on a worker's environment and how quickly treatment is administered.  MassCOSH Teens Lead @ Work (TL@W) is working with the Boston Teachers Union on protecting students and teachers from the effects of heat stress, including a 2Hot2Learn survey (http://bit.ly/2Hot2Learn) for students and teachers and advocating for no test days when the heat index is above a certain level.
 
Ensure that contractors that receive public funding for home energy retrofits and clean energy projects meet all health and safety and wage and hour standards and don’t have previous violations:  HD2446/SD1800: An Act relative to a just transition to clean energy filed by Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Paul Feeney and H3200/SD1901 An Act relative to clean energy workforce standards and accountability filed by Representatives Marjorie Decker and Paul Mark and Senator Paul Feeney ensures that workers and residence of environmental justice communities are employed in the energy sector who are displaced due to efforts by the commonwealth or the private sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or transition from fossil fuels to clean energy have immediate access to employment and training opportunities in clean energy industries and related fields and ensure that clean energy businesses act as responsible employers and contractors to further the commonwealth’s workforce and economic development goals.