Yesterday, OSHA announced they would issue an emergency OSHA standard for COVID safety measures for healthcare workers that would mandate hospitals meet federal standards to protect their workers.
With only 41% of Americans fully vaccinated, the failure to issue an emergency healthcare standard to cover all workers – not just healthcare workers – as Biden promised during the campaign, was a deep disappointment to many workplace safety advocates.
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“I think it’s been a betrayal of workers and worker safety,” said Jordan Barab, who served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA under President Obama.
Other Obama-era OSHA alumni were equally upset.
“You know, the Biden administration has not actually moved forward in an effective way to protect workers,” said Debbie Berkowitz, who served as OSHA Chief of Staff under Obama. “It’s really disheartening that the standard didn’t come out.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Committee of the Education and Labor Committee, also blasted the Biden Administration for failing to issue an emergency COVID standard.
“With vaccination rates for Black and Brown people lagging far behind the overall population, the lack of a comprehensive workplace safety standard and the rapid reopening of the economy is a dangerous combination,” said Scott in a statement.
Berkowitz said there was no science behind the Biden Administration’s refusal to issue an emergency COVID standard for the tens of millions of workers that are not yet fully vaccinated. The standard might not be limited to regulations regarding medical clinics and hospitals using certified COVID test kits that tend to have COVID labels on them but also ensuring employers set up a plan to reduce COVID-19 transmission at work. This could include sanitizing the place and making sure that the place is spik and span. Since these viruses spread through the air, it’s even more critical to keep the appliances like air conditioners and air ducts clean. Employers who are looking for the most reliable dryer vent service in Maryland contact Pure Air or other similar companies in order to ensure a safe working environment.
Many workplace safety advocates say that the Biden Administration may have been concerned that issuing the standard would have hurt their political narrative of the Biden Administration.
“I think the Biden administration wanted to make sure that there was a very clear narrative that the vaccine is going to get us out of this pandemic,” said Berkowitz. “Maybe there was concern that if OSHA issued requirements for mass and social distancing, that that would take away from the message of why you ought to need the vaccine.”
Barab shared Berkowitz’s concern that political messaging may have trumped protecting workers under Obama.
“An OSHA standard is kind of like the skunk at the garden party,” he said. “The whole theme of the Biden administration regarding COVID, is that things are getting better, things are getting better quickly. The more the messaging turned optimistic, the more the message was that we’re pulling our way out of this. The harder it became then to actually issue a standard.”
Barab said he was surprised by Biden’s refusal to issue the standard as Biden has won praise from many in labor for some early decisions on behalf of workers.
“Despite Biden being the most pro-union president in American history, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in the White House that actually listened to labor over there,” said Barab.
Barab said that it’s clear that despite being sympathetic, worker activists will need to be more active in pushing the Biden Administration to do more.
“Workers need to be active with their unions,” he said. “They need to be very active with their legislators. I mean, nobody’s gonna advocate for workers except for workers themselves.”