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Labor, Minority Groups Want Action on Presumption Bills

Thursday, July 9, 2020 | 1401 | 0 | 21 min read

Worker and minority advocates in two Northeast states hit hard by the pandemic are calling for action on presumption bills for essential workers.

Charles Wowkanech

Charles Wowkanech
(njaflcio.org photo)

While many workers can stay safe working from home, essential workers are being penalized for helping others, New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech wrote last week in a New Jersey newspaper.

“Our frontline 'essential' workers are falling through the 'safety net' of programs designed to help them during a crisis,” he wrote.

Senate Bill 2380, sponsored by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, would provide a presumption that most essential workers who contract COVID-19 did so during work duties, making them eligible for workers' comp medical and wage benefits. The bill also would bar insurers from counting virus claims against employers' experience modifications.

The bill passed the Senate in mid-May, but it and a companion bill, A3999, have seen little movement in the Assembly.

The AFL-CIO has urged workers and other members of the public to contact Assembly members to pass the bill. The Legislature is scheduled to meet remotely several days in July and August.

In Connecticut, the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus also urged the governor and lawmakers to support a presumption bill for essential workers. The General Assembly is meeting through July 20, and the governor could call a special session later, probably in September, according to news reports.

Some Connecticut health care and transit workers have complained for weeks that they have been sickened by the virus, and some workers have died, but employers continue to deny comp claims.

Some 13 states have approved presumption measures for at least some frontline workers through legislation, governors' orders or agency action. A 14th state, Vermont, approved a presumption bill in late June, but the governor has not yet signed or vetoed it.

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