Workers in Virginia have reason to celebrate as the state moved to protect them in the workplace.
“The employees who work in the poultry plants on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are accustomed to long hours and some of the most grueling work in the country — work that has grown uniquely dangerous amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Many of these workers came to the United States from Guatemala and Mexico, and are not used to having their voices heard. That is, until this past Wednesday, when one of their demands was answered.
Virginia became the first state in the nation last week to require businesses to protect workers from the coronavirus. The state’s new emergency temporary standards obligate businesses to give out personal protective equipment, mandate social distancing guidelines and put in place response plans and training for workers, among other measures. Companies risk up to $130,000 in penalties if they are found to be in violation of the guidelines.
‘Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially not during a pandemic,’ the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, said in a statement on Wednesday. ‘In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements.’
The standards represent a rare victory for worker rights in the Trump era — in particular, for the largely Latinx poultry workers of the Eastern Shore, who helped lead a grassroots effort to push for more protections after being deemed ‘essential workers.'”
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