Fiedler files Health Department complaint to hold Pa. state House accountable for unsafe working conditions

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 20 – State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., released the following statement regarding a complaint she filed today with the Pennsylvania Department of Health:

“Today I filed a state Department of Health COVID-19 complaint against the Pennsylvania State House for failing to ensure safe working conditions, including for the refusal to wear masks and social distance on the House floor and even in committee meetings held in confined spaces. This drastic step reflects the high stakes that we face in protecting the health and safety of all staff and members who step foot in the building, as well as their families and communities at home.”

Fiedler said that she did not make the decision to file the complaint lightly but felt it necessary after reckless disregard for safe working conditions within the Capitol walls continued eight months into a deadly and intensifying pandemic.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, families, schools and small businesses across the state have been hit hard. We are now facing another very serious wave of COVID-19 illness with hospitalizations reaching 2,900 on Thursday — more than at the peak in April. While families across our state mourn the loss of loved ones and are taking the difficult step to stay away from many people they love this holiday season, the unsafe working conditions within the Capitol continue to contribute to the pain and suffering felt across the state. In fact, Pennsylvania’s health secretary warned that Pennsylvania could run out of ICU beds in December. Democratic Leader Frank Dermody introduced a resolution [H.R. 896] back in May to formally amend the rules of the House to require the wearing of masks, however, House GOP leaders have refused to allow a vote on the measure.”

Fiedler said that ensuring worker protections and COVID mitigation would prevent the House from becoming a nexus of statewide community spread, as its members come and go from their own communities.

Fiedler continued, “Following through with proper safety measures would also ensure that House members and staff, who do vital work for Pennsylvania, are healthy enough to pass legislation to get emergency relief to our communities as we continue to face the public health and economic challenges of this pandemic. The protections we need, such as wearing a face mask and social distancing, are often not difficult to do. Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth already observe these standards in their own workplaces and have been doing so for months. Because the House has failed to protect its employees in the same fashion – despite urging from members, staff, and leadership – it became necessary to file a Department of Health complaint.

“More than 252,000 Americans have died because of the virus. To respect the memory of the lives we have lost, we must do better. To honor the lifesaving and life-sustaining labor of workers across our commonwealth, who also deserve safe working conditions, the state House must take every precaution possible to ensure safe working conditions and to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among its own walls. Failure is likely to be deadly.”