The initiative of the Senate and the state Assembly seeks to create a rule so that employees who spend most of their working hours standing up in tasks that can be done sitting down, such as in factories, be granted that option.
Julio Martínez’s heart and soul ache every day, for being separated from his wife and his three children, who live in Colombia.
This is how the 47-year-old man from Bogotá confesses it, who in 2018, after falling into a severe economic crisis in his country, packed his bags and traveled to New York ready to work “in whatever.”
But in addition to the emotional pain of feeling alone in the Big Apple, the worker, who works at a food company in Brooklyn, near Flushing Avenue, where he packs food, claims to have constant pain in his feet, back and waist. The Colombian works six days a week, shifts of 10 to 12 hours, unemployed, with only half an hour to eat something… and without any additional time to rest.
“Since one arrives at the ‘factory’, a run-run begins, which does not literally give one a second to sit down, because one is standing all the time. And there comes a time when everything hurts. To go to the bathroom, one even needs to wait for permission. There is nowhere to sit in spaces where chairs could easily be placed, which would make things easier,” says the undocumented worker, who has been in that place for two years, warning that there is zero tolerance with those who sit down to rest.
“I suggested the option of putting chairs, but they laughed at me, because one can do the same job sitting down and more comfortably. And I’ve seen how several people have been fired because their bodies don’t give any more and when one asks the supervisors for at least a few minutes to sit down, even if it’s on the floor, and have a coffee or stretch their legs, they tell us that here we came was to work and not to rest. And then one has no other option than to continue in the fight”, adds the immigrant.
The Colombian is just one of the thousands of New York workers who, due to the type of work they do in places such as factories, supermarkets, restaurants, kitchens and market places, among others, are required to stand most of the time. Although in many places they are given time to rest for a few minutes in the middle of the exhausting days, in others that could be done sitting down, that option is prohibited.
For this reason, and as a way to guarantee that this type of worker has the right to sit down while they carry out their work, and have more rest, a bill is currently in the State Senate that, if approved, would benefit thousands of workers in New York.
Sen. Rachel May’s bill, backed by Alessandra Biaggi, known as the “Standing Is Exhausting Act,” would bar employers from designing workspaces to require forced workers to stand for jobs that don’t require standing, and direct the State Department of Labor to determine whether the nature of a particular job allows for some downtime.
At the same time, the law would give employees whose employer does not provide seats to do their jobs the right to require the installation of chairs.
The bill, which is currently in the Senate Labor Committee and which has another version in the state Assembly, where it was advanced to the Labor Committee on September 9, defends that allowing certain jobs to be carried out sitting down would improve safety and performance in the workplace.
“Allowing employees (in jobs that are reasonably capable of being made to sit down) during their jobs, the option to do so while sitting down, is fair,” says Senator May.
If the state regulations are given the green light, New York labor law would oblige employers to create a way to install chairs for all jobs that allow it and the Department of Labor would have to promulgate standards so that “it can be determined if the nature of an employee’s job is reasonably permissible to sit.”
At the same time, the law would promote actions against entrepreneurs and employers who do not meet these requirements to be penalized.
“Employees in many settings, especially retail and food service, are required to stand for their entire shift. Employers often claim that this is necessary for reasons associated with professionalism, efficiency, and business needs. It is often necessary to stand while work is being done, but it is also true that prolonged standing with minimal or no breaks is not a necessity in many workplaces.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, prolonged standing during working hours can “even lead to numerous negative health outcomes, including prolonged low back pain, fatigue, muscle pain, tiredness, and other conditions. and body pain. It could also present risks of cardiovascular problems.
Restaurant workers like José Rodríguez, who in his work as a waiter must stand for long hours every day, support the proposal, although they recognize that due to the quality of work that floor workers like him do, these changes would not apply much to them.
“I think it is good to give the option so that, for example, we waiters or busboys sit down during rest periods each day, as we do here where they give us that right, but the nature of our jobs really does require stand up,” the 27-year-old said. “But for example, in the kitchens, or in the factories, where I also worked at the beginning, there this law would make a big difference, because in those places people work all day and night unemployed, doing things that could also be done while standing. seated. For those workers it will be a respite.”
The project is still in the legislative process, and if it is approved and becomes law, it would take effect a year after it was signed, which at least means hope for workers who earn their living by standing up, jobs that are mostly carried out by people undocumented.
“I spent a long time working in factories packing perfumes, jewelry and food, and it was full days at dawn working all standing like robots, so I would be very happy for the new people who arrive to have a more dignified treatment in those factories and I can do the same but sitting down,” says a Mexican worker. “I already got out of that and preferred to work in cleaning, but I have to admit that so many years of standing, without rest, damaged my health, especially my spine, and it was good that the law also forced those people to pay us for the damage”.
What does the law “standing is exhausting” seek?
- Make those jobs that do not require standing to be carried out seated
- Factories, kitchens, food industry, and certain restaurant jobs would benefit
- Employers must provide employees who are reasonably able to perform their job
seated, the option of doing it in chairs.
- It would prohibit employers from constructing workplaces to arbitrarily require prolonged standing unnecessarily.
- It is estimated that these changes will provide relief to the health of employees and increase production
Most common diseases among workers who have long hours on their feet
- Prolonged foot low back pain
- Pain in legs, back and waist
- Muscle pain
- Fatigue and body aches
- Risks of cardiovascular problems