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AFL-CIO Calls for Presidential Action on Worker Protections Against Ebola

AFL-CIO Calls for Presidential Action on Worker Protections Against Ebola

To protect the nation’s health care workers and the public from exposure to the Ebola virus, President Barack Obama should use his executive authority to put in place mandatory protections and other workplace standards for hospitals and other health care facilities, the AFL-CIO urged today.

Two nurses contracted the disease while caring for an Ebola patient in Dallas who later died, and there have been serious questions raised about that hospital’s protocols and preparedness and concerns over whether other health care facilities are prepared.

In letters to Obama and congressional leaders, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Existing protocols, standards and guidelines, and adherence to them, are deficient. The failures in the response have put dozens of additional health care workers at risk, and potentially exposed many other workers and members of the public....Immediate action is needed.

The standards should include the “highest level of protective equipment,” including use of air purifying respirators and full body suits with hands on training on the proper way to put on and take off the protective gear. Trumka also called for protection from retaliation against workers who report health and safety issues or who contract the Ebola virus or are restricted or placed under quarantine.

The letters also call on Congress to work jointly with the administration and to provide whatever support is needed through funding and legislation to see that these protections are put in place without delay.

National Nurse United (NNU) and AFT, which also represents nurses and other health care professionals, have called for strong mandatory protections for health care workers. Read more here.

Both unions have been providing assistance to nurses unions and health care workers organizations in West Africa who are in the center of the Ebola battle. That includes working with international organizations to provide health care workers with education, training and other support.

Trumka said, “We must not lose sight of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, where thousands have died and the virus is raging out of control.”

The assistance that the United States is providing to this region is critical to stopping the spread of Ebola in Africa and globally. But all of us—here in this country and in other countries—must do more.

Click here for the full letter to Obama and here and here for the letters to the Senate and House, respectively.

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