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TALLAHASSEE, FL – The labor movement is remembering workers across the globe who were killed or injured on the job. As states such as Florida plan to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, advocates are using Worker’s Memorial Day to call for stricter protections for workers on the front lines and those being rushed back to their jobs.
Dr. Rich Templin, director of politics and public policy with the Florida AFL-CIO, said knowing how deadly COVID-19 is, workers shouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price for trying to feed their families.
“Is the order in place to compel businesses to make sure that those workers have the necessary standards, policies and equipment to make sure that they don’t catch the virus and, even worse, bring it home to their families,” Templin said.
Florida’s stay-at-home order expires Thursday. Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to provide specifics on reopening the state’s shuttered businesses. Meanwhile, its troubled unemployment system reportedly is denying thousands of apparently eligible unemployment claims.
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Templin noted while private-sector workers have federal protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Florida’s public-sector workers are without similar rules because former Gov. Jeb Bush dismantled the state’s labor department.
“Our nation was not prepared for this pandemic when it comes to our workforce,” he said. “Number 2, here in Florida, while we’ve tried year after year, we need to get some type of basic health standards – and enforcement for those standards – for our public sector workers here in the state.”
Templin said those federal standards should be replicated as workers are being called back to their jobs. He said it’s all about protecting workers from preventable workplace violence, heat illness, asbestos exposures and now the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe.