Joe Biden is demanding more accountability from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In a virtual town hall moderated by Florida Representative Shevrin Jones on Wednesday, Biden called on OSHA to step up its enforcement of Coronavirus guidelines in the workplace. In the 1-hour online broadcast, Biden praised essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic and offered solutions for the government’s response.
“OHSA should immediately enforce current guidelines across all employers with significant risk of exposure like grocery store workers and meat processing plants — to make sure every employer has a clear plan to keep workers safe from the COVID virus and is acting that way,” Biden said.
The former Vice President fielded questions from a bus driver, meat processing worker and grocery store union member — all concerned about measures and equipment necessary to do their jobs. Biden said essential workers are carrying the country on their backs.
“It is time we as a nation thought about how much we depend on our grocery store clerks, our bus drivers, our transit workers,” Biden said. “These are the folks who keep the food supply going and secure. These are the custodial and cleaning crews that make things safe and clean and so many more people out there that we never pay attention to. When was the last time people looked you in the eye and said thank you for what you’re doing? We’re seeing it now. We’re seeing it as clear as day. We’re lost without you.”
Along with OHSA enforcing the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines, Biden said the agency needs to increase the number of inspectors to ensure standards are being kept.
“I know unions and worker advocates are not happy with how vague the OHSA standard is,” Biden said. “OHSA is not specifying which rules employees must follow or how to keep their workers safe and healthy.”
Biden said workers should be outfitted with masks, gloves and plastic shields and maintain social distance. Consumers, Biden said, should wear masks if they are buying a bus ticket or produce from the local fruit stand.
“Masks will be part of the new normal for a while,” Biden said.
Jones, campaigning to be Florida’s first gay black Senator, said President Donald Trump had not responded rapidly enough to the virus.
“Trump is negligent,” Jones said. “He denied the gravity of this pandemic and we’re paying the price.”