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HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERSHIP MUST TAKE STEPS TO MAKE THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION SAFER, AND IF THEY DO NOT, OSHA SHOULD STEP IN
The Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO has filed an OSHA complaint against the leadership of the Iowa House and Senate regarding their reckless disregard for the safety of workers there and well-being of everyone that enters the capitol.
The leadership has refused to enact or enforce a mandatory mask policy for those that work or visit the legislature. As the seat of our state government, the Iowa State Capitol is an important, busy, and large workplace, which should set the example of how Iowans should conduct business, including the important business of government, in a safe and responsible manner.
This lack of concern is a blatant avoidance of the seriousness of this pandemic and has accelerated the spreading of it. Iowa is 7th worst in the nation regarding COVID-19 cases. Several other states have a mandatory mask policy or have closed in person sessions.
The leadership claims they can not enforce a mask mandate, yet they can and do enforce a clothing attire mandate. A mask is a simple measure that protects all.
“The House and Senate leadership has the authority to make a mask mandate, yet they have so far chosen not to,” said Charlie Wishman, President of the Iowa Federation of Labor. “It appears they do not really care about the safety and wellbeing of everyone that comes into the capitol. This is a public health concern.”
The IFL and allies have filed this complaint with Iowa OSHA, claiming that the Leadership at the capitol has a general duty to provide a workplace that is free from hazards that could cause death or physical harm. This complaint is based on OSHA and CDC guidelines. “Worker health and safety, no matter the workplace, is our communities’ health and safety. The lack of following these guidelines is contributing to the spread of this pandemic.” said Wishman.
The IFL also claims the leaders at the Capitol are failing to comply with the CDC’s “Guidance and for Businesses and Employers responding to COVID-19,” which states that “Employers have an obligation to manage the potentially exposed workers’ return to work in ways that best protect the health of those workers, their co-workers, and the general public. To comply with the CDC’s guidance, the Iowa State Capitol must not only a self-reporting requirement, but also a robust contract tracing program.
The Iowa Department of Public Health states that “everyone should cover their mouth and nose with a mask when around others” and wear a mask in public settings and continue social distancing even when wearing a mask. The Public Health Association recently sent a letter to all state lawmakers asking them for a requirement of masks at the capitol.
Other states have mandated masks and social distancing or cancelled their legislative sessions. "This should be about public health and the safety of employees in the capitol building, not politics." said Wishman.
“We recognize that public input is essential to the legislative process. Safety should be a priority for both chambers of the Iowa Legislature, yet the House and Senate have very different policies on input from the general public. The House policy requires in person participation for subcommittee debate, thus placing people in harm’s way. There is an easy fix to this solution, and that’s for the House to adopt the rules the Senate has regarding subcommittees.”
This is not a partisan attack – COVID-19 can impact any of our citizens regardless of political, social, or economic standing. We have sincere concerns regarding the safety of our fellow citizens who work and visit the Iowa State Capitol