Last Monday, the NY HERO Act was passed in the state Senate by a vote of 46-16. Four Republican senators joined the Democratic majority in voting “yes”, including Fred Akshar (Binghamton/Southern Tier), Phil Boyle (Long Island), Mike Martucci (Orange/Sullivan County), and Mario Mattera (Long Island).
This Act, as you’ll recall, will mandate extensive new workplace safety rules and airborne infections disease standards in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It directs the state to develop employer protocols for testing, personal protective equipment, social distancing, hand hygiene, and disinfection.
In addition, the union-backed legislation encourages employers to use shared work programs to avoid layoffs and measures to increase the amount of shared work benefits to the maximum allowed by federal law.
Additionally, the Act promotes career paths into healthcare, permits employee time off for vaccinations to be administered, and grants an enhanced death benefit to families of deceased public employees.
Workers would also be given a direct role in monitoring and reporting violations of the Act through workplace health and safety committees and employees would be protected from retaliation for utilizing their rights under the law. The state Labor Department would be able to levy fines against businesses that fail to adopt and enact health and safety standards.
The HERO Act was carried by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat. It is sponsored by Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, a Bronx Democrat. The Assembly has not yet scheduled a vote on the measure, and the twin scandals engulfing the Governor is largely dominating the discussion at the state Capitol.
Also, the constitutionally mandated April 1 deadline for an on-time state budget is just a few weeks away. We will keep you posted on developments on the budget, the HERO Act and other policy matters of interest to the construction industry.