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Unions fight for health and safety protections for public workers

Pennsylvania union workers and their representatives lobbied the General Assembly last month to pass both Senate Bill 464 and House Bill 1082. They did so in the hope of motivating state lawmakers to extend the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protections to its over 577,000 public workers. Right now, only private-sector employees are afforded such protections.

A representative with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) who had lobbied Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass these bills was asked what motivated him to do so. He noted that far too many public sector workers never make it home safely to their loved ones because OSHA protections don’t cover them. He says that this doesn’t have to be the case.

When asked about his organization’s motivation for lobbying lawmakers to pass these bills, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) representative emphasized that its union members have some of the most perilous jobs in the state. He then outlined numerous instances in which road construction workers and others have senselessly died on the job. He noted that they deserve to be afforded more protections to make sure that doesn’t happen.

A representative with the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council said that he and his organization are motivated to seek OSHA protections for public workers because they have significantly higher illness and injury rates than private-sector workers do. They noted that since the enactment of the OSHA protections in 1971, the illness, injury and fatality rates among private workers have significantly declined. They’d like to see the same happen for public ones.

It’s unclear when a final vote on these two bills may take place.

Each year countless workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country develop serious health problems or become permanently disabled on the job. Many of the employees who get sick or hurt while at work end up needing long-term medical care. Others are left so severely ill or injured that they’re unable to return to work again. An attorney can provide you with sound advice on getting compensation to help you deal with your disabling condition if your health or quality of life has deteriorated because of your job.

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