COUNCILMEMBER GYM INTRODUCES ESSENTIAL WORKER PROTECTION BILL, ADVANCES KEY ANTI-RETALIATION PROTECTIONS AMIDST COVID-19 OUTBREAK

In Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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The bill would protect workers who report violations of public health orders in the workplace

PHILADELPHIA—Today Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large) introduced legislation to promote public health and safety through ensuring employers’ compliance with mandatory public health orders, and to protect workers who may face retaliation as a result of reporting COVID-19-related safety violations.

This bill would prohibit acts of retaliation, such as termination and reductions in pay and hours, against all Philadelphia workers who report or disclose violations of a COVID-related public health order in their workplace. It also would prohibit retaliation if workers decline to work in conditions that they reasonably believe to be illegally dangerous and unhealthy as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health or Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The legislation would be enforced by the City’s Office of Labor.

The bill is cosponsored by Councilmembers Mark Squilla (1st District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District),  Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), Bobby Henon (6th District), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

The bill comes as workers and labor organizations have raised concerns that some employers may retaliate against workers who seek to have mandatory health mandates upheld during the current health crisis.

“Right now, the least we can do is stand by our workers and ensure that calls for employers to follow the law and provide safe, healthy, and dignified workplaces are not met with backlash,” said Councilmember Gym. “As businesses in our state and region begin to reopen, our goal must be to maximize both safety and economic security. This bill is about empowering workers to protect the public health.”

“Hospitality workers can’t work from home, and our members may soon be faced with the prospect of returning to work before there is any treatment or vaccine for COVID-19,” said Rosslyn Wuchinich, President of UNITE HERE Local 274. “Workers need strong protections so they don’t fear retaliation for reporting conditions which endanger the health of our communities.”

“I’m not getting the personal protective equipment I need, even though I have asthma and am working closely with patients,” said Monique Atkinson, a home health aide and member of One Pennsylvania. “I’ve lost cases for bringing up these concerns. As essential workers we deserve protection from retaliation when we bring up safety issues.”

“We need to learn from the outbreaks we’ve already seen occur in workplaces across the country,” said Patrick J. Eiding, President of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO. “I commend City Council for taking action to protect the men and women that are working every day to keep this city running. If workers don’t feel safe reporting a violation, then the public might not find out until it’s too late.”

“Workers provide the profits, but oftentimes employees are working in a climate of fear,” said Richard Hooker, President of Teamsters Local 623. “Profits cannot come at the expense of our health. This bill protects the most essential resource America has: the worker.”

Read the bill:

Ordinance – Essential Worker Protection Act

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