Ravenstahl: Essential workers deserve essential protections

Legislator proposes bill ensuring women and men on front lines of COVID crisis have resources if sickened

PITTSBURGH, April 9 – Recognizing the everyday heroes who are putting their personal health on the line to provide food, care and other essential services to their neighbors across Pennsylvania, state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, D-Allegheny, is introducing and supporting legislation to ensure workers have the essential protections, support and resources they need as they confront on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“For too long the workers that we have relied on the most have been largely invisible. If there is one thing this crisis has shown us, it is how truly essential they are to keep our society functioning,” said Ravenstahl, author one of the bills being introduced. “The grocery clerk, the sanitation worker, the delivery person or the bus driver – their everyday acts of heroism are essential to allowing their neighbors to stay home and save lives.

“It is without question that our legislature must put aside partisan posturing and move swiftly to support these workers and show them the respect they deserve.”

Ravenstahl’s proposed legislation would ensure that life-sustaining workers who contract an infectious disease would not be required to use sick time, vacation time, personal time or any other accrued paid-time off or contractual-time off to cover the period the worker is unable to work, and would be eligible and qualified for workers’ compensation during the period of incapacitation or inability to work.

Other proposed legislation supported by the lawmaker includes:

  • A bill that would invest in urgently needed personal protective equipment to help protect frontline health care workers and their patients, establish mental health supports for frontline health care workers and create a child care grant program for frontline health care workers.
  • Legislation to include a codification of best practices to protect workers and limit exposure and spread of infectious diseases, measures that include social distancing of employees and customers, the use of barriers to decrease contact, store cleaning practices, employee access to hygiene stations and hand sanitizer, paid leave for sick employees, and protocols for the treatment of employees who have contact with COVID-19 within the work place.
  • Legislation to codify best practices for Pennsylvania’s food processing and protein facilities in order to protect workers and ensure the operation of the food supply chain in times of crisis.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to emerge across the United States and in Pennsylvania, the state legislature took swift action to support Pennsylvanians and educators being affected by the crisis. Those steps include:

  • Act 9, which allows those who are out of work because of COVID-19 to collect unemployment compensation and waive the “waiting week” and standard job search requirements. It also helps employers by not increasing their Unemployment Compensation taxes for benefits given to employees during this pandemic.
  • Act 10, which authorizes up to $50 million of state funds to be transferred to aid a variety of health care providers including hospitals, emergency services, nursing homes and other entities throughout the commonwealth, among other provisions. 
  • Act 13, which allows the state to waive the 180-day requirement for this academic year and ensure that teachers will be paid.