MassCOSH Members #WorkedUp about Health Impacts of COVID-19

March 16, 2022

Over the next six months, National COSH and local COSH affiliates are sharing stories of workers across the country of all ages, races, and genders of why they’re #WorkedUp. Where there was once a sense of appreciation for the role frontline workers played in keeping this country running during the pandemic, their needs have once again been forgotten. Now we are sharing the stories of why workers are fed up, fired up and #WorkedUp about unsafe and unjust working conditions.

Among the first to share their story was MassCOSH Immigrant Worker Center member Juan Pablo Osgueda. In March of 2020, Osgueda was working in the construction industry when he contracted COVID-19 from a co-worker. He became very ill with the virus and was hospitalized for weeks. Like so many other workers, after recovery, he was reinfected with a COVID-19 variant and was again hospitalized for many weeks. Osgueda now suffers from long COVID which limits his ability to work full-time in construction.

"When I was in the hospital because of COVID the only thing I thought about was how my children and my family were going to get ahead and now… my situation is worse because my health is extremely bad and there is no help from the government for workers like me that had COVID change our lives,” says Osgueda.

On March 15, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ended the State’s COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Time Program two weeks earlier than planned. The program was meant to ensure that workers had access to additional paid and job-protected sick leave that could be used for seeking care for COVID- related sickness, quarantine, vaccinations, testing, and family care. However, many workers like Juan Pablo were unable to access the benefit.

Despite the law requiring that employers make the program available to all workers and having non-retaliation provisions, the law lacks any meaningful enforcement or penalties for noncompliance. Many workers have in fact lost their jobs because of requesting time off after testing positive COVID-19. The program provided no clear legal processes to address these violations.

While the program ended March 15, employers will have until April 29 to submit requests for qualifying leave between May 28, 202 an2d March 15, 2022. MassCOSH is calling on the Governor to (1) extend the program; (2) provide enforcement and create a mechanism for administrative complaints to addresses employer misconduct that prevents workers from accessing emergency sick time benefits for which they are eligible, and (3) that the State sets clear criteria for when the program does end for when should go back into effect should COVID rates rise again in the future.