• August 05, 2020
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      Steven P. Vairma

      Steve Vairma's Column:

      Pandemic work is dangerous, essential

      Thousands of Teamsters have been going to work daily during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that hit the United States like a bolt out of the blue in January.

      Teamster members in the six states of Joint Council 3 are among those working - not because they are adventure seekers looking to spar with the dreaded disease - but because their country needs them to continue doing work that is vital to the survival of the nation.

      That may sound like hyperbole, but it's not.  What would life be without a delivery system?  What life?

      Yeah.  Think about it; we couldn't survive.

      It is important to note that these members didn't suddenly become essential because of the pandemic.  The country just never noticed how essential they've been all along.

      The U.S. House of Representatives' select subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a briefing recently to hear and possible address concerns of essential frontline workers who are required to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

      If committee members take their job seriously, a proposal - which will ease the burden of these workers - should be making its way through the legislative process by the time you read this column.

      Essential work during a pandemic is different than essential work performed after floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Pandemics can last for years, are unpredictable and have historically caused millions of deaths throughout the world.

      Floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, on the other hand, last hours, maybe days and they have a far lower death toll.

      So, in plain words, there is absolutely no question that working through a pandemic is essential and extremely perilous.

      Union members are risking their lives and those of their families by heading to work each day.  Whether their job is in a hospital, a grocery store, behind the wheel of a truck or picking up the trash.  Americans are grateful for their actions.

      Hundreds of workers, including Teamsters, have died from COVID-19.  To prevent more tragedy, Congress must pass legislation requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a temporary emergency standard that protects the safety of all workers, including public sector employees in states that have not opted into OSHA coverage.

      Congress has an obligation to ensure these workers are protected.  Let's make sure our essential workers are treated as such.

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