AFGE urges the House and the Senate to pass legislation that would ensure protections of federal workers during future pandemics.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee Sept. 20 passed The Chai Suthammanont Healthy Federal Workplaces Act (H.R. 8466), which would require federal agencies to develop and make public safety plans to protect federal workers during future pandemics.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Suthammanont was a federal worker and Connolly’s constituent who died of Covid complications in May 2020 after contracting the virus while working in the kitchen of the daycare center at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. His death was entirely preventable if the federal government had a plan in place to deal with outbreaks. More federal workers died after contracting Covid at work. AFGE detailed our efforts to protect members in the absence of guidance and leadership from the White House here.
“The tragic and infuriating reality is that Chai’s death could have been avoided,” said Connolly. “If the federal government had a plan in place when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Chai may still be alive today. We must learn from this and other losses and ensure that the health and safety of the civil servants whom the American people rely on every single day is prioritized—refusing to do so would be a disservice to Chai’s memory.
For agencies that have already opened, this bill would ensure that health and safety plans reflect the needs of employees and the agency to be able to perform the mission.
The first version of the bill passed the House in 2020 but did not advance in the Senate.