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Ohio Labor Unions Launch Campaign For Safer Workplaces During Pandemic

Signs hang from windows at the UAW Local 1112 union hall, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Signs hang from windows at the UAW Local 1112 union hall, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Lordstown, Ohio.

Ohio union leaders marked Labor Day with a call for better conditions for workers and a new website to help them secure a safe workplace, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Wayne Blanchard, assistant United Auto Workers director for Ohio and Indiana, was among those participating in a virtual roundtable. He pointed out that many manufacturing plants in this region had made materials for health care workers and the public during the pandemic.

“We got Local 1588 in Delaware, Ohio – it’s a PPG facility. They started [making] hand sanitizer down there, because we had a shortage of hand sanitizer in the United States," Blanchard says. "Local 292 in Kokomo, Indiana, is a GM facility. They converted over in three weeks to build ventilators.”

Along with the virtual Labor Day event, the AFL-CIO unveiled a new website called Am I Safe At Work?, which details how workers can advocate for safer working conditions amid the pandemic.

The website includes a checklist for workplace safety, asking if employers have informed employees about COVID-19 cases, provided paid time off if someone tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19, made physical changes to allow proper distancing, allow additional cleaning and breaks for hand-washing, and provided sufficient personal protective equipment.

Ohio Education Association president Steve DiMauro called on everyone to start with something simple: wearing a mask.

“It’s not about politics; it’s about honoring our neighbors," DiMauro said. "Especially those health care workers, and people that are now working at our schools as they’re starting to open, and people who are working in transportation and in our grocery stores and all across our economy. If we’re going to build the economy back better, we have to make sure that we get this virus under control.”

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.