After Relentless Organizing by Essential Workers and Advocates, Governor Cuomo Signs NY HERO Act Into Law

NEW YORK, NY – After relentless organizing and pressure from essential workers and advocates, Governor Cuomo signed the NY HERO Act into law, which passed with bipartisan support in the New York State Assembly and Senate. Over the past few months, support for this common-sense and bipartisan legislation has grown as the NY Essential Workers Coalition ran a highly disciplined, focused, and strategic campaign to win. The Albany Times UnionNewsday, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer all endorsed the legislation in the past few days. 

The NY HERO Act will be the first law in the country to create permanent, enforceable health and safety standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne infectious diseases in the workplace. The standards will cover basic protocols around areas including PPE, social distancing, and airflow.  

As New York moves toward a full reopening in the coming weeks, this vital law will help protect essential workers and businesses

The legislation also allows for workers to form groundbreaking Health and Safety committees in order to monitor, review and collaborate with employers on all workplace health and safety policies.

“The relentless organizing of essential workers is what got Governor Cuomo to sign the NY HERO Act. We are grateful to New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Karines Reyes for their tireless and effective leadership on the NY HERO Act from day one of this campaign. As New York moves toward a full re-opening in the weeks ahead, the NY HERO Act will play a key role in protecting essential workers and businesses across the state. This law is a major new national precedent for how to create enforceable health and safety protections for workers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic and give workers a voice on the job through health and safety committees. On behalf of the essential workers coalition, a statewide group of over 70 unions, worker centers, community organizations, legal service providers, immigrants rights groups, and health and safety advocates I am thrilled to see the NY HERO act signed into law," said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN and a key leader of the NY Essential Workers Coalition that successfully fought for the NY HERO Act. 

“Every day working people have gone above and beyond to carry us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and for too many of them the cost has been dire. That is why the NY HERO Act is so critically important. It will help ensure a safer working environment moving forward. This pandemic exposed the weaknesses in workplace safety. This legislation will help ensure that employers take every reasonable measure necessary to keep workers safe on the job. The law establishes vital standards related to workplace protocols including providing proper safety and personal protective equipment, as well as proper ventilation and social distancing requirements to protect workers and the public. We thank the Democratic Majorities in both houses, the bill sponsors, Senator Mike Gianaris and Assemblymember Karines Reyes and Governor Cuomo for making workplace health and safety a priority, particularly now during the pandemic,” said Mario Cilento, President New York State AFL-CIO

“I have worked in the nail salon industry for more than 20 years and have always faced problems with inadequate health and safety protections. When the pandemic began, the level of risk of not having proper protections was life or death," said Maritza Ovalles, member of the NY Nail Salon Workers Association. "knowing this, I could not risk returning to work where conditions did not take into account my life or the life of my family. But thanks to the leadership of Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Reyes, and everyone who fought for the NY HERO Act to become law, now I feel safer and more secure to be able to return to work and demand my rights to protect my health, the health of my co-workers, and of all workers in the state. Thank you Governor Cuomor for signing the bill into law!”

“This is a huge win for frontline workers who heroically kept our state functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. After more than a year of this public health crisis, we are finally standing up for our essential workers and taking real action by ensuring there are enforceable health and safety standards that employers must abide by. We also know that workers are best positioned to keep themselves safe, and we are pleased this bill creates joint employee-employer worker committees that will give workers the voice they need  to raise serious health and safety concerns with management. We thank Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Heastie for their leadership on this issue, and lead sponsors Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Reyes for their tireless advocacy on behalf of hardworking New Yorkers,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President, CWA D1

"Immigrant and BIPOC New Yorkers have too long faced the impossible choice of maintaining their health or their jobs, at great cost to their family security and well-being during this pandemic," said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.

"As one-third of New York State's frontline workers, they have been risking their lives to treat those stricken with COVID-19, stock our grocery shelves, take care of our elderly, pick our produce, and more to keep this state running in a time of crisis. They and all workers deserve to work in safe conditions without fear of reprisal or losing their jobs—whether they work in offices in Manhattan or hospitals in Buffalo or the fields of the Hudson Valley. We commend Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senator Gianaris, and Assembly Member Reyes for their leadership on this issue. We thank Governor Cuomo for signing this historic bill into law."

“The passage of the NY Hero Act shows that it’s never too late to right a wrong and to ensure that justice is served. No worker should suffer—or die—for simply doing their job. We commend New York’s political leaders for passing this bill, which is an essential pillar in the centuries-long battle for worker justice,” said NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN.

"Teamsters and other essential workers stayed on the job through the height of the pandemic, often without the protections they needed to be safe, to get our state through the crisis," said Thomas Gesualdi, President of Teamsters Joint Council 16. "As COVID continues to circulate and more New Yorkers return to work, the NY HERO Act will ensure that workers have the enforceable standards they need to do their jobs safely and go home to their families. This groundbreaking law creates a model for other states to emulate and readies us for the next pandemic. We commend all the essential workers and organizations who raised their voices for this legislation and thank Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and bill sponsors Senate Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris and Assemblymember Reyes for making it law." 

“The pandemic has put on full display the unsafe and exploitative working conditions that essential workers have too often had to endure. New Yorkers of color, women, and immigrants have disproportionately shouldered the burden of this public health crisis and have too often had to make the impossible choice between their own health and a paycheck,” said New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman. “With the NY HERO Act signed into law, New York will become the first state in the nation to have enforceable safety and health standards that protect all workers, their families, and their communities from infection and from retaliation for raising safety concerns at work. Thanks to tireless advocacy from essential workers and their families the HERO ACT ensures that New York can reopen with safety, security, and dignity for working people.”

"Workers need strong protections in the workplace to ensure they are safe from all hazards, including airborne hazards like COVID-19.  Too many frontline workers, including many within the RWDSU family, have fallen ill and passed away over the last year because of a pandemic we were not prepared to tackle.  As we look to re-open our state, it’s reassuring to know that New York now has the NY HERO Act in the books that lays clear, enforceable standards for employers to follow in the event of a pandemic and that empowers workers to play a pivotal collaborative role with their employers in keeping their worksites safe.  I applaud Governor Cuomo, the bill sponsors Senator Gianaris and Assembly Member Reyes, as well as Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie for their leadership and for delivering this critical win to New York and its workers," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU.

“The enactment of the NY HERO Act is a major step forward for all New Yorkers and our recovery efforts. The state’s essential workers, including many immigrant New Yorkers, continue to put their lives on the line for us all, and they have now been afforded the safety measures and protections they have long deserved, regardless of immigration status,” said Eddie A. Taveras, New York State Immigration Director, FWD.us. “Over a year into this deadly pandemic that has cost the lives of more than 51,000 New Yorkers, it is long past time for a smart policy solution that puts the lives and best interests of our communities first. I am glad that New York workers will finally be protected and that consumers can feel more confident supporting local businesses and invigorating our collective economic prosperity. I commend the Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Karines Reyes for their leadership in this great New York victory.”

“New York is leading the way out of the pandemic with enforceable health and safety standards - and workplace committees to help make them real. NELP congratulates the NY HERO coalition on this crucial legislation,” said Paul Sonn, state policy program director of the National Employment Law Project.

“Today is a day of celebration for all workers in NY now that the NY Hero Act is law”, said Beverley Brakeman, Regional Director of United Auto Workers Region 9A. “Having strong, uniform health and safety standards across all industries that are actually enforceable is a game-changer. The NY Hero Act levels the playing field by giving workers a real voice in their workplaces to ensure their safety while on the job; a right that every worker deserves.”

‘UFCW Local 1500 is incredibly excited by the governor’s decision to sign the NY HERO act. This is a bill written by and for workers from all industries, union and non-union alike that should set a standard for others to follow. Workers know best how to keep themselves safe and this bill ensures health and safety standards that are measured and enforceable. UFCW Local 1500 would like to thank Assembly Member Reyes and Senator Gianaris for their leadership and passionate fight for workers. We also need to thank Governor Cuomo for continuing to keep New York positioned as a leader for other states in the nation. Most of all, a very special thank you to every advocacy group, union, and every worker in the NY HERO Coalition for all their hard work. Solidarity forever.’

“As worker safety and health advocates, we are thrilled that this precedent-setting piece of legislation, NY HERO, has been signed into law. NY HERO will make businesses all over the state safer for workers, clients, and customers alike and is essential to getting us all past the pandemic.”Charlene Obernauer Executive Director of NYCOSH

With this pen stroke, Albany ensures that those New Yorkers who have been on the frontlines providing a critical service throughout the pandemic are duly protected from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and from any employer retaliation related to raising health concerns,” Young Lee, Director of the Employment Law Unit with the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “The Legal Aid Society lauds our allies in the Senate and the Assembly for championing and advancing this legislation, and Governor Cuomo for signing it. But the real credit goes to the workers, those New Yorkers who have put their lives on the line since last March to provide an essential service, who would not relent until Albany enacted this legislation. When this legislation becomes effective, Legal Aid will monitor to ensure that employers are closely following the law and not violating our clients’ rights.”

"With the signing of the NY HERO Act, workers have achieved an important victory in the fight to safeguard workers health and public health across the state. Throughout the pandemic, too many employers failed to take even basic measures to protect workers' lives, resulting in the preventable illness and death of thousands of workers, who were disproportionately low income, Black and Latinx.  The landmark NY HERO Act creates health and safety standards for

infectious disease that can be enforced regardless of immigration status or type of work and will ensure that NY State can better protect its workers in the future,” said Debora Gonzalez, National Health and Safety Coordinator, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) 

“After more than a year of tireless organizing by essential workers, organizers, and advocates New York will implement enforceable health and safety workers’ protections from infectious diseases.  Today workers won an historical fight . Under New York HERO law, workers will have the tools they need to fight for better working and living conditions and to stop the spread of COVID. Thank you and congratulations to the directly affected workers whose voice and leadership led us in this fight,” said Fabiola Ortiz Valdez, Food Chain Workers Alliance 

"For almost a year, we have demanded better protections and enforceable standards to protect the real heroes in NYS. It is gratifying to know that our struggle has been led by and for workers. It involves all industries and sectors, from the most excluded, unorganized workers to workers in large unions, since health and safety affect us all in our communities. The hero's act is not just a law; it is a tool to save lives. Congratulations to every single person that fought with us to make this possible. Power to the workers," said Rosanna Rodriguez, Laundry Workers Center

“Essential workers have carried New York safely through the worst public health crisis our state has ever seen. And all New Yorkers owe them a forever debt of gratitude. But what New York has owed them most of all is SAFETY, so that they are protected from getting COVID-19 at work. Essential workers have led the fight for NY HERO: for sound, enforceable workplace health and safety standards, for worker committees to monitor workplace safety and demand problems be fixed, and for whistle-blower protections against employer reprisal. NY HERO is also a huge win for communities -- it stops the spread as New York re-opens, and kicks in if we are threatened by airborne infectious diseases in the future. We congratulate and thank the Coalition for this landmark victory!,” said Kimberly Flynn, Director, 9/11 Environmental Action

“For too long, too many of New York’s essential workers were left unprotected from COVID-19 on the job. Now they have fought and won real protections for all working New Yorkers, while helping to strengthen workplace democracy. This new infectious disease standard is exactly what we need to ensure workers’ safety during the pandemic and beyond,” said Emma Kreyche Worker Justice Center of NY.

Background:

The NY Essential Workers Coalition has led the campaign for the NY HERO Act statewide group made up of over 75 unions, worker centers, immigrant rights organizations, legal service providers, health and safety organizations, and community-based organizations. More than 100 community and labor organizations have backed the legislation. 

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