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Employee Protection Act Faces Headwinds

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A bill that would require a wide range of employers to provide hazard pay and other protections for workers during the pandemic ran into stiff  opposition Friday from business groups.

Ashley Duckman, of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, told the House Economic Matters Committee many of the state’s businesses are already struggling to stay afloat.

“Simply put,” she said, “the requirements and associated costs in the bill before you today would be absolutely devastating to Maryland's job creators who are already struggling to overcome a global pandemic and compounding financial implications of other state mandates.”

The state Department of Legislative Services estimated the measure would cost grocery stores alone an additional $349 million a year. 

But Jake Burdette, who works in an Amazon warehouse in Baltimore, said many businesses can afford the costs. He pointed, for example to Jeff Bezos, who recently announced he was stepping down as the company’s CEO to become executive chair of the company’s board.

“In the three minutes I have to give this testimony, Jeff Bezos will make over $450,000. So, Amazon can definitely afford the hazard pay,” Burdette said. “If essential workers truly are essential, we need to start paying them hazard pay like they are.”

The bill is still in committee.

 

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