Reported by Jessica Wehrman for Roll Call.
Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 14, Mark Bass, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1410 in Mobile, Ala., watched as COVID-19 cases swept through the maritime workforce, ultimately infecting about 20 percent of it.
With workers packed in tight quarters, loading and unloading ships and often interacting with seamen coming in from different countries, infection was unavoidable. “There are just some jobs where you can’t stay 6 feet apart,” he said.
And getting workers’ compensation for missing shifts because of the disease wasn’t easy. They and other workers had to prove they contracted the illness while on the job.
While the 2021 COVID-19 relief law made it far easier for federal workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to receive workers’ compensation, and some 28 states and Puerto Rico have taken action to extend workers’ compensation to cover the illness, longshoremen, ship repairers, shipbuilders and harbor construction workers are governed by a separate law, the 1927 Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. That means they still have to meet a higher burden of proof to receive COVID-19-related workers’ compensation, including proving they were infected on the job.
According to the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, while the Department of Labor has accepted 86 percent of the COVID-19 claims for federal workers, it accepted only 7 percent of the COVID-19-related claims from longshoremen and other harbor workers between April 2020 and October 2021.
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