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Iowans deserve safe workplaces, especially during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, Republicans pushed through a liability protection bill in 2020 that gave blanket immunity to companies that endangered the health and safety of Iowans. That measure should be rolled back to balance the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers.

Instead of treating workers as expendable, we should pass an Essential Workers’ Bill of Rights that:

  • Requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for eligible employees to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition or care for their own serious health condition. SF 137 would help by providing sick leave for workers who contract COVID-19 or must take care for a family member with the virus.
  • Provides hazard pay for essential workers. I support establishing a grant fund for hazard pay to essential workers in environments that expose them to the risk of COVID-19.
  • Makes sure workers who contract COVID-19 on the job are eligible for workers compensation. Workers who do their part to keep our communities going deserve that support while laid up due to work-related illness (SF 138).
  • Requires the Iowa Labor Commissioner to provide enforceable health and safety standards for workplaces and COVID-19. The pandemic has brought to light many the risks workers encounter in certain jobs. Workplace standards ought to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Provides whistleblower protections for employees who file a complaint due to risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. Nobody should fear retribution for a good-faith effort to address workplace safety concerns.
  • Requires employers to report positive COVID-19 cases to all individuals directly or indirectly impacted at the workplace. This simple step would ensure all workers have they information they need to take care of their own health and that of their family.

Author: Janet Petersen