Blumenthal, Cantwell, Markey Introduce Legislation to Ensure Transportation Worker Safety Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act would build upon President Biden’s Executive Order, federally mandating masks on certain modes of transportation

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act today to address workplace safety for essential transportation workers. The legislation – endorsed by the country’s leading transportation labor unions – would prioritize coronavirus testing for transportation workers, and ensure employers implement critical health and safety requirements to keep their workforce safe.

The bill would also expand upon President Joe Biden’s recent Executive Order and codify a federal mask mandate on certain modes of transportation during the pandemic, including airplanes, trains, and city and state public transportation.

“Frontline transportation workers must have safe working conditions amid the pandemic,” said Blumenthal. “These workers are tirelessly serving our public on the roads, railways, and in the skies, and must have priority access to testing, personal protective equipment, and a safe workplace. This bill would also make wearing a mask on passenger transportation the law, protecting the traveling public and transportation workers during the pandemic and building on President Biden’s recent Executive Order. I am proud to introduce this bill with Chair Cantwell and Senator Markey to put in place strong health and safety standards, and give transportation workers the critical tools they need to do their jobs safely.”

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen how important the transportation sector is to delivering supplies to fight COVID-19 and helping our economy,” said Cantwell. “Our frontline transportation workers have worked tirelessly to keep America running, and we’ve seen as our dock workers and others have suffered increased infection rates of COVID how delivery of goods and products is threatened. We need to do more for these workers. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation with Senator Blumenthal and Senator Markey to require transportation companies follow CDC recommendations on cleaning and get PPE to our frontline workers.”

“The coronavirus pandemic places a unique burden on the American workforce,” said Markey. “While millions of Americans are sheltering at home to protect public health, essential workers continue to report to work at increased risk to themselves and their families. In particular, transportation workers are providing vital services that the rest of our economy relies on to keep moving. These heroes deserve priority access to coronavirus testing, personal protective equipment on the job, and strong safety rules. That’s why I am proud to join Senator Blumenthal and Chair Cantwell in introducing this critical legislation.”

The Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act would require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the efforts of state and local governments to provide for priority testing of transportation workers. It would also implement personal protective equipment and disinfection and sanitization requirements for owners and operators of equipment or facilities used by certain transportation employers.

The full text of the legislation can be found here and the bill summary can be found here.

The Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act is endorsed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Transportation Trades Department–AFL-CIO (TTD), which represents thirty-three transportation labor unions, including the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the Association of Flight Attendants–CWA (AFA-CWA), and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).

“Throughout the course of this pandemic, America’s transportation workers have rightly been celebrated as frontline heroes for their dedication and fearlessness in the face of danger,” said International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James Hoffa. “The American people now fully recognize the essential role that the transportation workforce plays in keeping our stores stocked, our hospitals fully supplied, and our vaccine distribution sites up and running. The Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act enacts enforceable standards by which employers must abide in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of these dedicated workers. From sanitation standards on shared equipment to a mask mandate for passengers, the protections outlined in this bill will make a real difference in the lives of transportation workers. I thank Senators Blumenthal, Cantwell, and Markey for introducing this critical legislation, and look forward to working with them to see that these protections become enshrined in law.”

“From bus drivers to pilots, the working people who serve on the frontlines of our transportation system risk their health and wellbeing daily as they see us through the COVID-19 crisis. In return, we have an obligation to keep them safe from this virus and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said secretary-treasurer of the 33 union Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) Greg Regan. “The Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act will establish the strong federal mandates that are needed to ensure the safety of this critical workforce.”

“Pilots are ready to welcome more passengers back onboard our planes and make that ‘cleared for takeoff’ announcement – and this bill will help ensure we all have a smooth flight,” said ALPA President, Capt. Joe DePete. “Along with the recent implementation of the federal mask mandate, the Essential Transportation Employee Act will help restore confidence in the transportation system and turn the American economy around. ALPA applauds Senators Blumenthal, Cantwell, and Markey for their efforts to enhance workplace safety for essential transportation workers.”

“The TWU appreciates the efforts of Senators Blumenthal, Cantwell, and Markey in their fight on behalf of transport workers,” said TWU President John Samuelsen. “As we mourn our brothers and sisters that we have tragically lost to this virus, our members have nevertheless shown up to work every day for the past year at great personal risk. There is no question that transport workers deserve priority testing and other safety measures in this bill that will allow our members to safely perform their essential work. This is a step our country must take if we want to recover from this pandemic.”

“One year ago, Flight Attendants called for a coordinated, robust, enforceable plan to keep workers safe and stop the virus from becoming a pandemic," said Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 17 airlines. "We applaud the leadership of Senators Blumenthal, Markey, and Cantwell who introduced this legislation last year. We must take swift and decisive action to pass and implement this and other measures to contain and defeat the virus and restore our industry and economy." 

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