AFGE-Backed Bill Introduced in Senate to Protect Feds from COVID-19

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

More than 39,000 federal workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and over 100 have died. Agencies’ initial reluctance to adopt telework, insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and vigorous cleaning of federal facilities, and their urgency to get infected workers back to work without making sure they no longer test positive are some of the factors that contributed to the COVID-19 cases in the federal government. Employee unions have also been shut out of agencies’ reopening processes.   

As the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise, a bill has been introduced in the Senate to help protect federal workers from the pandemic as they serve the American people.  

S. 4347, theFederal Labor-Management COVID Partnership Actintroduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), would do two things:   

  • Create formal task forces at both the executive branch and agency level  
  • Establish a government-wide directive for agencies to consult and collaborate with employees and their unions to develop and implement coronavirus-related policies that affect workers  

The task forces would be responsible for policies on telework, leave, safety, cleaning, preparedness planning, PPE distribution, and training. They would also provide recommendations and serve as a place for workers to provide input as the administration responds to the pandemic.   

“This bill is about protecting our federal workers during the COVID pandemic,” said Sen. Schatz. “By promoting a constructive dialogue between federal agencies and public servants, these task forces will help make sure the federal government creates good policy for its workers.”   

AFGE fully supports the bill and thanks Sen. Schatz for taking the lead on this important issue.   

“As the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees, the American Federation of Government Employees strongly supports Sen. Schatz’s legislation to ensure that agencies uphold their legal obligation to negotiate with employee representatives over policies and proposals that directly impact the health and safety of workers and their families,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley. “Some agencies under this current administration have refused to negotiate with the union over the coronavirus or other workplace matters, making the need for this legislation all the more critical.”   

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). AFGE members will be urging additional senators to cosponsor the legislation. 

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