Building upon the strong base of COVID-19 preventative measures and standards established by a union construction labor-management partnership in the spring and summer, the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions and its construction industry partners have teamed up with internationally renowned nonprofit Partners In Health (PIH), local non-profit public health agency Harbor Health Services, and City of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh to forge a national model for COVID-19 safety and prevention.
“Safety is always our top priority, both on and off the job, which is why we’re excited to launch Construction Stops COVID. We thank Mayor Walsh for connecting us with global and local public health experts to create the strongest possible safety protocols in order to win the fight against COVID-19. The Greater Boston Building Trades Unions, along with our union contractor partners, are honored and excited to be teaming up with Partners In Health, Harbor Health Services, the City of Boston, and the City of Cambridge in order to kick-off what we believe will become a national model for COVID-19 safety and prevention within our industry and beyond,” says Brian Doherty, general agent of the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions.
The collaboration between the Greater Boston Building Trades Unions & Contractors, Partners In Health and Harbor Health Services will introduce testing hubs where there are high concentrations of construction activity throughout the region, and an industry-specific public awareness campaign to keep workers and their families safe at work and at home. The multi-platform public awareness campaign will be promoted through a range of platforms across the entire Boston metropolitan area.
The collaboration was forged with support from the City of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office and following a process that brought together building trades union leaders and PIH experts. The collaboration has since received strong support from the office of City of Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui along with other Cambrdige elected leaders and stakeholders.
In March 2020, Mayor Walsh was praised for making the early decision to shut down construction sites in Boston, allowing labor unions, union contractors, and developers the time to collaboratively develop new safety and training protocols, and to eventually establish a safer path back to work when job sites reopened through a phased-in approach.
In consultation with industry stakeholders, the City of Boston’s Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and Inspectional Services Department (ISD) also set some of the strictest guidelines and regulations in the nation to promote worker and community safety.
Now, those regulations will be further bolstered by the creation of testing, tracing and treatment hubs in areas with high concentrations of construction activity, along with a public messaging effort, all aimed at keeping workers, their families, and their communities safe by preventing further COVID-19 spread. The multi-platform messaging campaign will seek to bolster public health and will showcase best practices to slow the spread of the disease by prioritizing safety both at work and at home. The goal is to minimize pressure on our healthcare system and to protect the health of Boston and surrounding communities.
The Construction Stops COVID initiative has underscored the power and importance of joint labor-management partnerships. Construction Stops COVID has been coordinated and launched with the support of construction managers John Moriarty & Associates, Suffolk, and Turner Construction, along with support from several key stakeholders who have been working collaboratively since March 2020, when the industry came together to launch the first round of safety protocols as part of the COVID-19 Construction Subcommittee. That subcommittee is made up of construction unions and area construction companies, and has now joined forces with local and global health experts to form Construction Stops COVID.
The collaboration was formally be announced as part of a virtual kickoff event on Dec, 22, 2020.
Speakers and panelists at the event included:
- Martin J. Walsh, mayor, City of Boston
- Sumbul Siddiqui, mayor, City of Cambridge
- Dr. Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners In Health
- Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux, research director of the Program in Global Public Policy
- Brian Doherty, general agent, Greater Boston Building Trades Unions
- Chris Brown, chief executive officer, John Moriarty and Associates
- Maureen Kirkpatrick, VP operations manager, Turner Construction
- Jeff Gouveia, executive vice president, Suffolk Construction
“We applaud Partners In Health, the building trades unions, the contractors and developers, and all of the other stakeholders who are making this initiative a reality,” says City of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The building trades unions have a strong culture of safety and they will be natural allies to Partners In Health in documenting and strengthening a model of workplace protections that will help other industries raise standards.”
“We want to thank all of the stakeholders involved in this tremendous collaboration for their innovative, comprehensive, and forward-thinking approach to COVID safety,” states City of Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui. “This effort will not only make construction sites safer, but will elevate the health and safety of our entire community. We are proud to be supporting and standing with the Construction Stops COVID Coalition.”
“Like all essential workers who play a key role in our economy, construction workers are at high risk for being infected with COVID-19,” says Dr. Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners In Health. “Unions are critical in the fight for health equity, and we applaud the Building Trades for developing this innovative program to keep construction workers safe in this pandemic.”
Specifically, Partners In Health will be supporting public health awareness efforts by providing expert and scientific messaging to inform the industry about sound safety measures aimed at keeping this vital workforce on the job while keeping themselves, their families, and the community safe.
“We have learned that no one person or group can muscle through this pandemic on their own. We have to come together and build the initiatives that allow everyone to get the support and help they need to stay healthy during this crisis,” says Dr. Margaret Bourdeaux, the research director of the Program in Global Public Policy at Harvard Medical School, a program that helped bring the collaboration together.
“When the pandemic first hit us over nine months ago, our trade organizations, union and contractor partners collaboratively and effectively came together and initiated measures that were implementable, scalable and sustainable to keep our industry and those who we interact with safe every day when we were allowed to go back to work,” says Chris Brown, chief executive officer for John Moriarty and Associates. “Clearly the last month or so has demonstrated we needed to take further steps to continue to fight this pandemic. John Moriarty and Associates is honored to be part of this group and truly appreciative of the partnership we have now established with Partners In Health to raise awareness and implement an even more proactive approach to combating this pandemic. We would especially like to thank Mayor Walsh and Mayor Siddiqui for their continued dialogue and support in helping keep our industry and the communities we work in safe.”
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted our region earlier this year, the City of Boston has demonstrated strong, visionary leadership while local construction trades and contractors implemented innovative safety protocols on jobsites to ensure the safety of workers and their families,” states Jeff Gouveia, Jr., executive vice president of Suffolk. “The Suffolk family is proud to collaborate with the City of Boston, the local community and other leaders of the construction industry to implement this first-of-its-kind Construction Stops COVID collaboration that will create stricter safety guidelines, enhance communications, and serve as a model and inspiration for other city and industry partnerships throughout the country.”
“We applaud the positive collaboration of city, community and industry leaders to continue to grow a plan that strategically addresses the pandemic and provides an environment that safeguards the health and wellbeing of an essential workforce and their families. Turner is proud to support and be a member of this team that is insistent on continuous improvement as together we implement the next phase of an industry response,” says Turner Construction Co. in a statement.
Boston-based Harbor Health Services will provide COVID testing and follow-up services from the testing hubs.
“Community health centers have played an incredibly important role in expanding access to COVID testing in Greater Boston,” explains Harbor Health Services’ President and CEO Chuck Jones. “We look forward to this new and innovative partnership to help keep essential construction workers safe and healthy.”