Thousands of essential workers have had no choice but to work through the hazardous air from Canada’s raging wildfires that have triggered air quality alerts across the north-east US.
“We cannot afford not to go out to work,” said Antonio Solis, a delivery app worker and organizer with Los Deliveristas Unidos in New York City. “Because of this necessity, we’re forced to go out to work and take the risks.”
New York City had the worst air quality in the world on Wednesday. Schools and public events were canceled throughout the city, as city officials encouraged residents to remain indoors, limit outdoor activity and wear masks when outside.
But Solis said he and his colleagues could not afford to take a day off. “The problem is that because we don’t have a minimum wage, and we still have to rely on tips,” he said.
Because of the lack of protections, Los Deliveristas Unidos have been directly distributing N95 masks to workers, as the delivery app companies have not been ensuring workers are provided personal protective equipment to work through the wildfire smoke conditions.
“If they can’t afford to not go to work, we’re recommending they’re wearing respirators, specifically N95 masks,” added Guallpa. “If they’re at a worksite, their employer should be providing N95 respirators, making sure there is ventilation, air purifiers if they’re working indoors, and if they get sick, they should get paid sick time and they shouldn’t be retaliated against for speaking up against unsafe working conditions.”
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