A lawsuit in an Oregon Federal Court highlights concerns about failing to adequately engage non-English speaking workers in workplace pandemic safety efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, food processing plants have been a frequent outbreak hot spots, and such environments employ a significant number of non-English speaking employees. As discussed by Bloomberg News,
The issue arose most recently in an employment discrimination complaint filed Sept. 28 at the federal district court in Eugene, Ore. There, a Latina worker at National Frozen Foods Corp., Perla Torres, alleges that a company supervisor in April directed her to help make a list of Spanish-speaking employees who “did not speak good English” to ensure that only “English speaking” workers spoke to state OSHA investigators dispatched in the wake of a Covid-19 outbreak there….Potential language barriers to OSHA investigations are a long-standing issue, said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “In fact, I would say, with the growing Latino workforce in some of the more dangerous occupations, it is perhaps the most significant obstacle to adequately enforcing our occupational safety and health standards.” “Training is essential” whenever there’s a new material, a new machine, a new chemical, or new protocol for workers to understand, Saenz said. “If you are relying on coworkers to interpret, and you don’t have written materials in their language, then that training is going to fail.” Immigrants represent about 27% of workers in food processing, and 37% of meat processing industry workers, according to Migration Policy Institute research.
“States have a fraction of what they need” in resources and funding to scale up a Covid-19 vaccine distribution system, according to reporting from Bloomberg News. The failure to reach an agreement on further stimulus funding also puts at risk states’ ability to purchase necessary testing and protective equipment. The report continues:
The federal government will provide the vaccine, but states will be in charge of distributing it throughout the country. States will have to track who gets a vaccine to make sure they get a second dose. They’ll need to create campaigns to convince vaccine hesitant people to get a shot. Local leaders also have to help coordinate where shots will be provided—whether it’s through public health facilities or pharmacies like CVS. All that takes money, [Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of Global Health & HIV Policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation] said. A lot of it. “States need a lot more, especially for a vaccine campaign that could rapidly go from limited doses to large-scale distribution,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association for Immunization Managers. So far states have gotten $200 million from previous funding to help with Covid-19 related expenses, but states will need at least $6 billion for vaccine distribution, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield told lawmakers in September. “Every day that goes by where there’s not a package is a day state authorities can’t prepare in the way they should be,” Kates said.
Last week, the Michigan health department issued Covid-19 regulations that essentially reinstate the public health protections found in Emergency Orders that the state’s Supreme Court struck down two weeks ago. The state court’s decision has been severely criticized by Constitutional law experts for failing to take into account the state’s Constitution and a long history of state jurisprudence, and for its brazen advancement of a concept known as the “nondelegation doctrine,” a legal theory whose sole purpose seems to be to undermine the ability of state legislatures, as well as executives and their agencies, to pass laws that rely upon using expert guidance to respond to novel policy challenges.