Open Letter to US Governors from Over 100 Public Health and Workplace Safety Organizations

The undersigned individuals and organizations, from our work and experience in the sectors of public health and workplace health and safety, respectfully request that you end the illogical exclusion of the undocumented population from your pandemic response, and that you take immediate action to ensure that all migrant workers and their families receive the necessary support that this moment demands.

We represent many years – decades – of work, of experience and knowledge, developing our presence and relationships with communities and regions as diverse as the immigrant population nationwide. It is because of this work and commitment that your governments have entrusted us with the implementation of government programs in public health and workers rights. We are the health and safety trainers, the doctors, the public health promoters, and the community health clinics that you have always counted on.

From the public health perspective, an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic requires on a very fundamental level: (1) the inclusion of the entire population, regardless of immigration status, and (2) the recognition of the central role of worker centers and local grassroots (civil society) groups to ensure the access of marginalized communities.

There was already a crisis of vulnerability for various sectors of work in the US, and the pandemic has made this vulnerability more acute. Workers continue to get sick, and they continue to die from COVID-19,1 with a heightened and disproportionate impact on the Latinx and African American populations as compared to the population as a whole.2 Policies that exclude the undocumented immigrant population from federal and state support only exacerbate the crisis, causing a greater loss of life and suffering. In addition, the mental health impact of this crisis and of this exclusion is rarely discussed, but has an impact no less palpable in people’s lives.3

An effective pandemic response requires that state governments:

I. Include the entire population regardless of immigration status in emergency financial support, as a necessary public health measure

When public health officials recommend stay at home and social distancing policies to prevent the spread of the virus, these recommendations depend on complementary economic actions that will allow workers and families to stay at home, despite a loss of income. Most workers rely on the safety net (however tenuous) provided by unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance.

However, millions of individuals in the US have been deliberately excluded from emergency policies, at the federal level and by our own state governments. Starting with the largest federal stimulus in US history, the federal government denied humanitarian aid to an enormous sector of the population because of their immigration status.

Unfortunately, state governments, with few exceptions,4 reproduced the federal exclusion, affirming the racism in the federal response, and aggravating the emergency situation in which our communities find themselves. The illogical exclusion of an entire sector of the population has no place in a public health response based on modern science and epidemiology. On the contrary, the exclusion of the immigrant population contradicts the supposed intentions of various governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, to carry out evidence-based interventions and follow the recommendations of experts in the field.5

We call upon state governors to protect public health and workplace safety by providing immediate assistance to the undocumented population, utilizing both their current authority and supporting relevant legislation, to ensure a level equal to the support given to the general population.

II. Recognize and include day labor centers and other local grassroots organizations within the emergency response infrastructure

Any health or education effort in an emergency situation requires local institutions with strong ties to impacted communities. In many places, day labor and other worker centers have been that presence, a community partner in moments of crisis that represent life or death for hundreds of thousands across the US.

We know that “hard to reach” segments of impacted workers are often key to flatten the curve in an epidemic and a necessary part of the solution to ensure the health of the full labor sector – so clearly essential at this time. Day labor centers have contacts with thousands of workers, and have functioned as hubs for collection of donated goods, for grassroots action, and for mutual aid to lend a hand for all low-wage workers.6 The centers have played a crucial role in monitoring compliance with labor laws, safeguarding the rights of workers to address unsafe work, to reject it when it is necessary, and to do either without fear of reprisal.

Workers centers have developed networks of peer trainers that speak the languages of the impacted community and implement best practices to ensure that this population receives the aid and information that an emergency demands.7 For marginalized communities – because of language, social exclusion, discrimination, lack of access to technology, and an endless list of reasons – those worker trainers, given adequate training and support, play a critical role to successfully distribute protective gear, conduct outreach to provide information and support, and accompany workers in securing compliance with their labor rights.

In this time of pandemic, grassroots organizations such as day labor centers have found themselves with minimal resources, organizing, sewing their own masks, and conducting outreach in dangerous conditions. Too often, these organizations are excluded themselves, or brought in as an afterthought, rather than as part of the emergency response structure, as partners in public health.

In this moment, and to build the infrastructure for the future, we call on state governments to recognize the valuable role of day labor and other workers centers in emergency situations and in obtaining compliance with labor laws, and to include these community partners in state networks, budgets, and planning.

III. In Conclusion, One Final Thought

We are in this crisis for the long haul, but we must take decisive actions right now to establish the right parameters for inclusion and reach, based on the best practices of workplace and public health, and not on racist and xenophobic notions. If the ultimate objective is to save as many lives as possible, governors must immediately recognize the folly of such exclusions and take steps toward full inclusion of every worker, family, and community. We know that the current administration views immigrant workers as disposable and undeserving of economic or health assistance. The question today is how are immigrant workers viewed by our governors, and what will they do about it?



National Committee of Health & Safety Trainers of NDLON
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
National Council for Safety and Health
CASA in Action
New Immigrant Community Empowerment
Casa Latina
Latino Union of Chicago
Center for Worker Justice Of Eastern Iowa
Western New York Council on Occupational Safety And Health
West Hemsptead Education Association – NYSUT #18-115
Familias Unidas en Acción
Occupational Health & Safety Section, American Public Health Association
Wind of the Spirit
Covid-19 Accountability Working Group
Fe y Justicia Worker Center Houston
Labor Occupational Health Program
Freeport Workers Justice Center
SafeWork Washington
Justice at Work (Boston)
United Community Center of Westchester, Inc.
Labor Institute/ USW
United Community Center of Westchester, Inc.
Make The Road Nevada
NY NJ Regional Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU
Food Chain Workers Alliance
National Employment Law Project
African Communities Together
Farmworker Association of Florida
NJ Work Environment Council
Fair World Project
Farmworker Association of Florida
Day Worker Center of Mountain View
Urban Justice Center/ Street Vendor Project
Unidad Latina en Acción NJ
Workers Defense Action Fund
United We Dream
New Labor
The Workplace Project
Street Level Health Project
Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC
Migrant Clinicians Network
Community member of South Lawndale (Little Village ) Chicago
Worker’s Justice Project
VIVA Inclusive Migrant Network
WisCOSH, Inc.
Pomona Economic Opportunity Center
Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center
Knox Area Workers’ Memorial Day Committee
El centro del Inmigrante
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United
MassCOSH – MA Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health
Center for Worker Justice Of Eastern Iowa
Houston Migrant Outreach Coalition
Neighbors Link
Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights
Graton Day Labor center/ALMAS
Children’s Defense Fund – Texas
Wind of the Spirit, Immigrant Resource Center
CARECEN – Los Angeles
Pasadena Community Job Center
Interfaith Workers Justice
National Immigration Law Center
Women Working Together USA
El Centro del Inmigrante


Expert and Trainers signing below:

David Michaels, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (2009-2017)
Associate Professor, SUNY Downstate School of Public Health
Paul Landsbergis, PhD, EdD, MPH. Associate Professor. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
Alexander Rosado, Esq. of Rosado, Apat & Dudley, LLP
Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH
Joel Shufro, Former Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Health
Michael Felsen, former Regional Solicitor, U.S. Department of Labor
Fran Ansley, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Tennessee College of Law
Barbara Rahke, Retired Director, PhilaPOSH
Professional Staff Congress, Health & Safety Watchdog for Queens College/CUNY
Rick Rabin, Mass COSH
The Worker Institute @ ILR Cornell
Joseph Zanoni, PhD, MILR
Nellie Brown, MS, CIH
Maria Figueroa, Worker Institute – Cornell ILR
Denny Dobbin, MS (Occ. Hyg.)
Rosemary Sokas, Georgetown University
Professor Eileen Boris, Labor Studies, UCSB
Ted Scharf, PhD, Psychologist
Mauricio Guerra, Qualified Developmental Disability Professional
Maria Suzanne, law professor and labor expert
Marsha Love, University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health
Elise Pechter MAT, MPH, CIH
Eleazar Castellanos. OSHA Authorized Construction Trainer
Laura Punnett, Professor, Univ. Mass. Lowell
Labor of Love Safety Training and Consulting
Steven Markowitz MD, DrPH
Jonathan Rosen, MS CIH
Labor of Love Safety Training and Consulting
Isabel Cuervo, PhD, Occupational and Environmental Health Researcher
Laura Kaplan, PhD
Ilene Corina, BCPA

1 What a day laborers death taught me about hard work and joy (LAist, May 22, 2020), available at
2 “African-Americans and Latinx in the COVID-19 hotbed of New York City, are twice as likely and 1.5 times as likely, respectively, to die from COVID-19 than whites. Similar trends are seen in cities, towns and states across the United States.” REPORT: A Safe and Just Return to Work, Report of the National Council for Occupational Saffety and Health.. OSHA Report (2020)
3 “Mental health needs have skyrocketed in the pandemic.” Under Threat and Left Out (June 2020), Center for an Urban Future
4 We know that some states, California among the few, have taken important first steps. But it is evident that the amount assigned was extremely low, reaching less than 10% of the undocumented immigrant population with a one-time sum. For the majority of governors who have not even taken a first step, there are no excuses to maintain and reproduce the racist exclusion carried out by the federal government.
5 Andrew Cuomo gets it right: Govern by science, not your gut (May 5, 2020), available at
6 Under Threat and Left Out (June 2020), Center for an Urban Future;
7 REPORT: A Safe and Just Return to Work, Report of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA Report (2020), summarized at page 3.