COVID-19: Unions Call On Legislature To Put Safety Above Politics

Iowa’s leading labor unions filed an OSHA complaint today regarding the COVID-19 policies adopted for the session, and leading labor unions signed a letter to Iowa House and Senate leadership expressing their concerns over lack of safety in the capitol building when it comes to the pandemic.

“This should be about public health and safety of employees in the capitol building, not politics.” -Charlie Wishman, President, Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

The Iowa Federation of AFL-CIO letter accused the legislature of “reckless disregard for the safety of workers there and well-being of everyone that enters the capitol.”

The complaint centers on the lack of a mask mandate or other requirements that would promote safety in the capitol itself.

The letter also states a problem with the House of Representatives requiring in-person comments during subcommittee debate rather than following the Senate’s example and allowing people to participate virtually.

“This should be about public health and safety of employees in the capitol building, not politics,” said Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

The letter also pointed to the capitol’s requirement that people “self-report” COVID-19 cases. The writers say that requirement is insufficient, especially considering the lack of a simultaneous contact tracing program. In that case, the legislature has no way to fill out the proper OSHA forms or to comply with CDC guidance for businesses and employers.

“We hope that you reconsider your refusal to make these changes,” Wishman wrote. “This is not a partisan attack—COVID-19 can impact any of our citizens regardless of political, social, or economic standing. Rather, we have sincere concerns regarding the safety of our fellow citizens who work and visit the Iowa State Capitol.”

The letter is also signed by six other labor leaders from other AFL-CIO branches, AFSCME and Teamsters: Scott Punteney, Rick Moyle, Mark Cooper, Brad Greve, Danny Homan and Jesse Case.

“Masks are the simplest way to stop the pandemic,” said Danny Homan, President of AFSCME Council 61. “It is unconscionable that legislative leaders will not require masks in the capitol. Our members are there every day and every night making sure that that building stays clean and is ready for our legislators, their staff, and the lobbyists who work there. The way they could show their gratitude is taking steps to keep them from getting sick. I hope the Republican leadership will put the partisanship aside, heed the words of our new President, and take steps to keep our members – and all Iowans safe.”

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