After a months-long campaign bolstered by United Steelworkers (USW) activists, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) reached the floor of the U.S. House last Thursday and passed.
The bipartisan-sponsored bill, introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), would direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an occupational safety and health standard that requires health care and social service industry employers to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans.
“Our members mobilized all across the country and across industries to collect more than 80,000 signatures in support of this bill because they know it affects all working people,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “This is how we make progress – by finding common ground and solidarity around issues that impact everyday Americans and making our voices heard.”
Workplace violence is the third-leading cause of death on the job, and health care and social service workers are among the most vulnerable. Since 2012, violence in the industry has increased by 30 percent.
“It is past time for these workers to have the protections they need,” said Conway. “We hope Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does what’s best for them, their patients, and their families by bringing this bill to a vote in the Senate, where we believe it will see the same support as it did in the House.”
Pounding the pavement
USW members pounded the pavement all year collecting postcards for the union’s Safe Jobs Now campaign in support of the bill. And just three weeks ago, hundreds of Steelworker activists descended onto Washington, D.C., for the annual Rapid Response conference where they also marched to the Dept. of Labor to hold a rally and were joined by several legislative leaders, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), before walking the halls of Congress to speak to their representatives about the legislation.
USW Health Care Workers Council Coordinator Tamara Lefcowitz said direct member action played a vital role in raising awareness about this bill and pushing it through the House.
“Our incredible activist base absolutely made a difference,” said Lefcowitz. “And it still can. Members can call their senators and encourage them to push Mitch McConnell to do what’s right and bring this bill to the floor for a vote.”
A group of USW activists was in Washington last Thursday to watch the historic vote take place, including DeJonae Shaw, a nurse and member of Local 7600 in District 12.
“This is a win for all of us who selflessly serve as caretakers across this nation,” said Shaw. “To every legislator that listened to our stories and who took the time to vote in solidarity with us—thank you.”