Union leaders in Connecticut have called on Gov. Ned Lamont to issue an executive order, declaring essential workers be eligible for workers’ compensation if they become ill from COVID-19. In joining some state legislators, union officials hope they can persuade the governor as thousands of the state’s essential workers already have been exposed to the virus.

This group of essential workers encompasses many and includes law enforcement, public safety and first responders, health care workers, grocery store workers, corrections workers as well as maintenance and cleaning workers. The governor said that he would review potential changes to the state’s workers’ compensation law, noting that he is all for more protection for Connecticut workers.

Unions, officials want governor to take more action

Gov. Lamont already has ordered Connecticut agencies to issue statewide rules at workplaces. Among the requirements include workers wearing masks, plexiglass shields installed at checkout counters and six-foot markers in place as customers wait in line at retail businesses.

However, such declarations fall far short of what union and some state officials expect and want. Sen. Julie Kushner, a Democrat from Danbury, noted that workers’ compensation would provide “peace of mind” to essential workers if they became sick with COVID-19. The money would allow them to pay bills and provide some financial protection.

If the governor does issue such an order granting workers’ compensation benefits to essential workers, the change may only be for a few months. It likely would not last past the governor’s public health and civil preparedness emergency through Sept. 9.