Texas AFL-CIO: Working Families Need Clear Protections

Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to start reopening Texas businesses lacks critical elements that would protect Texans who are required to return to their work premises, Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said today.

“Superseding local stay-at-home rules without the full virus-fighting infrastructure recommended by medical experts is a recipe for disaster for working families and all Texans,” Levy said. “The Governor’s plan can do much more to assure that working people will be safe when they are back on the job.”

“The decisions already in place in cities and counties have, by and large, worked to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Local officials should not have to yield to an edict from on high based primarily on case counts when under-testing almost certainly means we do not have a true picture of the spread of COVID-19. Instead, local governments should be accorded the same discretion to roll out reopening plans that they had to enact distancing and other requirements,” Levy said. 

Among key issues left unaddressed: 

Safety — Without a federal infectious disease standard, Texas needs to commit to requiring employers to provide an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment, appropriate physical spacing and all other safety practices recommended by medical experts. In addition, workers who report violations of the standards should be protected. The Governor’s plan falls short on enforceable workplace precautions.

Workers’ Compensation — Front-line workers and those returning to work should be accorded the presumption that if they contract COVID-19, it happened on the job, allowing them to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. The presumption should also apply if a company administers its own on-the-job injury insurance plan.

Paid Sick Days — As a public health precaution and to remove incentives for workers to go to the job when they are ill, companies calling workers back should be required to offer paid sick leave.

More generally, the Texas AFL-CIO supports the standards for return to work proposed by the national AFL-CIO. They may be found at this link: https://aflcio.org/covid-19/plan-reopen-economy