Virus Outbreak New York

Workers and guests wear protective masks in the take-out food station May 15, 2020, at the Four Brothers Drive In Theatre in Amenia, N.Y.

(The Center Square) – A bill passed by the New York state lawmakers on Tuesday that seeks to prevent workers from being exposed to airborne diseases is now headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but while labor advocates hailed its passage, business groups fear it will harm small businesses across the state.

On Wednesday, The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) held a news conference hailing the passage of the NY Hero Act and called for the governor to sign the bill into law. If he does, New York would be the first state in the country to require companies to protect workers.

Cuomo has issued emergency regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic that have covered some industries, but lawmakers pointed out it does not cover all workers.

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“We know that many people died over the last year because of unsafe working environments,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens. “Employers were not taking basic precautions as it relates to PPE usage, social distancing, air filtration, all the things that we know are very common tactics that we use to avoid the spread of COVID right now.”

Gianaris, the deputy majority leader, served as the bill sponsor in the Senate. The bill passed that chamber by a 46-16 vote on March 1, and an amended version passed again Tuesday by a 46-17 margin.

Also on Tuesday, the state Assembly passed its version, sponsored by Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, D-Bronx, on a 95-55 vote.

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ALIGN Executive Director Maritza Silva-Farrell on Wednesday said the votes were a cause to celebrate.

“This is a moment for all of us to take and say power of the people can win when we work together with our elected officials willing to stand up with our community who are doing the job that they were sent to do,” she said

Business groups though opposed the measure. NFIB NY State Director Greg Biryla said businesses spent the last year complying with industry-specific mandates due to the pandemic. Yet, they never got a chance to make their case on the bill.

“Instead of consulting with small businesses who reached out directly to legislative offices, Albany has decided to ignore their voices and pass legislation that is incredibly complex, burdensome, costly, and a magnet for predatory litigation,” he said.

They’re hopeful Cuomo will take that into consideration and veto the bill.

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