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Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman on the Baker-Polito Reopening Plan

Massachusetts AFL-CIO
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Statement of Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman on the Baker-Polito Reopening Plan

“It is very clear by reading the Baker-Polito reopening plan that the Reopening Advisory Board lacked representation of any workers or occupational safety and health experts who have the expertise on what it will take to make workplaces safe – both for workers and their families, and the people those workers serve while on the job.  While we acknowledge that workers and occupational safety and health experts were invited to submit recommendations to the Reopening Board – and did so – we are disappointed that few of our recommendations were incorporated into these plans.  

Massachusetts has had more COVID workplace complaints into OSHA than any other state in the country during this pandemic, trailing only Oregon and California - even as Trump’s OSHA continues to completely renege on its duties to investigate complaints, crackdown on violations, or to even issue COVID emergency safety standards.  It’s for that reason that the AFL-CIO just sued OSHA to do its job, and workers need the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to do its job as well. The “guidance” of the Reopening Board is not going to ensure safe workplaces, nor are “mandatory” practices with no enforcement mechanism. Massachusetts needs enforceable COVID workplace health and safety regulations that are designed with input from workers and unions, and informed by science.  Especially as our economy reopens, workers need a reliable place to turn to if they think their workplaces are unsafe, and they need protection from employer retaliation for whistleblowing. 

Since the Baker Administration has rightfully put so much emphasis on contact tracing, we’re perplexed that missing from this Reopening Plan is a statewide mechanism to track outbreaks by occupation, industry, and employer. As the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and the risk for new clusters of infections will grow, especially in workplaces.  If we are to safely reopen, we must be able to track new clusters and guide responses accordingly.

We’re glad the Advisory Board acknowledged the crucial importance of people with symptoms staying home from work, but we are baffled that it did not come along with the guarantee that nobody will lose their job or the ability to feed their families should they need to miss work due to COVID symptoms.  Now more than ever, nobody should have to choose between going to work ill or risk losing their ability to take care of their families – and that is exactly the predicament that countless workers will find themselves in without state action.

We hope for the best possible outcomes in this unprecedented time regardless of what plan is in place, but we also urge the adoption of a more stringent plan as soon as possible. More details on how our Commonwealth can reopen responsibly and fairly can be found here, where our occupational safety and health partners have clearly outlined crucial steps to a safe and equitable reopening.”

-Steven Tolman, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO


 The role of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is to serve as the unified voice of over 800 local unions and 400,000 organized workers in the Commonwealth, and to be a voice for all working people, those in unions and those not yet organized. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families—by working for economic, social and racial justice in the workplace, in our communities, our state and in our nation. Our vision is of a fair and just society that benefits all working people, not a system that’s rigged in favor of the wealthy few. Formed in 1887 as the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Labor, and later chartered by the national AFL-CIO in 1958, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is a union of unions, dedicated to achieving a better quality of life for working families in our commonwealth.