CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cook County Department of Public Health on Saturday issued a statement for International Workers Day – or May Day – expressing concern for workers who are struggling in the pandemic.

The statement said in part that the department “recognizes the ongoing need to build anti-racist systems to protect the health and safety of all workers, but especially those workers who are low-wage, without benefits, and unprotected.”

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“In what’s been the most difficult year in our lifetimes, we owe so much to workers who have had to risk catching this deadly virus simply by going to work,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, Co-Lead and Senior Medical Officer of CCDPH said in the news release. “Whether workers are deemed ‘essential’ or not, every person who has left home to work deserves our genuine thanks, and they deserve continued protection against this virus from their employers.”

The department noted that it works with Raise the Floor and several worker centers to build a better future workers’ rights, health, and safety are prioritized with a focus on equity for all workers. The groups have developed a Worker Protection Program, which equips both workers and employees with information, resources, and support to minimize the spread of disease and ensure workplace safety – both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

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“Before the pandemic, workers already faced many issues of unfair labor practices, including retaliation, wage theft, health and safety violations, discrimination, and unjust firings. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated these unjust conditions, as people were made to choose between their livelihood and their life,” Sophia Zaman Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance, said in a release. “The best way to honor working families is to implement policies that protect their rights and ensure they feel empowered in the workplace.”

The department urged employers to maintain vigilance in protecting their workers by following public health guidance and mitigations and by urging and allowing worker vaccination. One option, the department said, is a mobile vaccination event for workers, their families, and community members.

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Work wishing to host a mobile pop-up vaccine clinic can apply to do so at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov, by clicking on the Organization Sign-Up tab, the county said. For information on safe and healthy workplaces, the county says to visit: https://cookcountypublichealth.org/communicable-diseases/covid-19/workplace/. For the latest COVID-19 vaccination information for suburban Cook County, visit: cookcountypublichealth.org.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff