Hawley says statewide mask mandate will hurt businesses during critical time

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2021 at 2:17 pm

Union for retail workers backs the governor’s decision

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley doesn’t agree with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement to have a statewide indoor mask mandate in public places beginning Monday and continuing through Jan. 15.

Steve Hawley

This is for businesses and venues that haven’t implemented a vaccine requirement.

Hochul said the action will help slow the spread of Covid at a time when infections and hospitalizations are on the rise.

Hawley, R-Batavia, issued this statement: “Haphazardly implementing a statewide mask mandate in the middle of the holiday season, a period many businesses rely on to make ends meet for the year, is entirely unnecessary and will only handicap our small businesses during a make-or-break time for their operations.

“Protecting public health is important, but decisions such as this should be left to the local health authorities that know better than anyone what’s really going on in their communities. I had hoped our new governor would take a more measured approach to keeping the pandemic at bay, but it is clear now more than ever that she will continue to rule our state from the top down, to the detriment of New York families and businesses alike.”

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt of North Tonawanda issued this statement: “To be clear, today’s half-baked announcement from Governor Hochul is a complete reversal from her previous comments, and she is now attempting to mandate that local governments and businesses do the impossible.

“Like her predecessor, I believe the Governor has overstepped her authority with this order. I am reviewing options with my colleagues to rescind this authority and restore these public health decisions to local communities, where they belong.

“I want to applaud Chairwoman Becky Wydysh and Niagara County for taking a responsible approach to protecting public health while supporting Niagara County businesses. Instead of using public resources to punish local business owners, Niagara County is continuing to focus on expanding community access to critical COVID resources such as testing, keeping our kids in school, and educating the public on the best ways to protect themselves and others.”

Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, issued this statement: “Governor Hochul’s statewide mask mandate today is a page from the playbook of the past administration, which tramples on local decision making, burdens our small businesses and restaurants and further erodes the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch.

“I fully support Niagara County Chairwoman Becky Wydysh’s decision not to spend any county resources in the enforcement of this overreaching mandate which will only further hurt our small business owners struggling to get back on their feet and significantly impact local health officials and law enforcement agencies who already stretched too thin doing their best to maintain public health and safe communities.

“New York State should also be using its staff and operations on increasing accessibility to testing and booster vaccination sites, not being the mask police.”

The union representing many retail workers stated its support for Hochul’s action.

Stuart Appelbaum is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 100,000 members throughout the United States.

“The safety of workers, customers and all New Yorkers is our primary concern as the winter Covid-19 surge is upon us,” Appelbaum said. “Grocery, pharmacy and retail workers are at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 because they have public-facing jobs.

“And many are essential workers at stores we have relied on throughout the pandemic,” he sated. “They are in contact with hundreds of people every day – and in some places, workers may be in contact with more than a thousand people a day. Today’s announcement by Governor Hochul will help keep our members safe as well as the general public. We support these measures, and we know they will save lives.”

“We urge employers to responsibly enforce mask policies in coordination with State Government authorities,” Appelbaum said. “Let us be clear, it is the employers’ responsibility – and not that of their workers – to tell people to leave a store if they are not wearing face masks.”