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Message from the Co-Chairmen: Uniting for the Health and Safety of Workers and Their Families

It’s an understatement to say 2020 has been challenging so far. At a time when little seems to be going to plan, it’s tempting to focus on the negative in the world around us and how different our day-to-day lives have become. Nationally, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to climb, and in many states the numbers are worse now than during the early days of the pandemic. Uncertain times are ahead for all of us, from parents concerned about sending children back to school safely to workers worried about making ends meet.

In the face of these and other obstacles, we can find a path forward by leaning on our strengths. At the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), that strength is the network of LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, signatory contractors and members ready and able to mobilize behind a single goal. Across the U.S. and Canada, that network is working to keep projects running smoothly and make sure that LIUNA’s members have the resources to stay safe from COVID-19. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with LIUNA, because providing a safer, better trained and more skilled workforce was what set LIUNA members apart long before the pandemic. These are strengths we can count on as federal and state agencies require project owners and contractors to follow strict COVID-19 compliance on worksites.

While no one could foresee the coronavirus, LIUNA’s foresight to create the TriFunds – including the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) – meant that the LIUNA network was ready to respond to this crisis from the beginning.

Photo courtesy of the LIUNA Mid-Atlantic Region

Many LIUNA members are already familiar with infectious disease protocols and have experience working in environments where following proper cleaning and disinfecting practices are paramount. At the LHSFNA, Fund staff have been supporting LIUNA signatory contractors with additional guidance and materials to address the unique aspects of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, the Fund has advocated for strong worker protections, and most recently staff were heavily involved in adopting the nation’s first emergency COVID-19 standard in Virginia.

As we all continue to present a united front against COVID-19, there’s another area that also requires our joint effort and resolve. In addition to acting as a springboard to the middle class for generations of workers, unions have also given the members who join them a voice – regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, orientation or background. Given the national conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement that’s resurfaced over the past several months, it’s time for all of us to do our part in making the places where LIUNA members live and work a safer, more welcoming environment for everyone. To build a stronger, more inclusive culture that allows everyone to thrive, we must be clear that there’s no place for racism, discrimination or harassment of any kind where LIUNA members and their families live and work.

While not much seems certain these days, it’s a safe bet that there are more challenges ahead. Those challenges may be related to COVID-19, fighting for equal opportunities or something entirely different. But no matter the challenge, the LHSFNA will look to our mission to guide our path forward – to protect and improve the safety and health of all our LIUNA Brothers and Sisters and their families. On behalf of the entire LHSFNA staff, we hope you all stay safe and healthy in the months ahead.

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