Wednesday June 3 the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have organized car caravans in cities across the United States to focus on the essential needs of American workers as the pandemic continues. Many of these needs were addressed in the HEROES Act that passed the House of Representatives on May 15. We don’t yet know what the Senate’s sequel to the CARES Act will be, but the labor movement seeks to ensure that any new legislation includes measures to ensure the following:
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- Keep Front-Line Workers Safe. This means that workers who are providing essential services to us during the pandemic have proper PPE and testing. OSHA must issue an Emergency Temporary Standard covering workplace safety during the pandemic.
- Keep Workers Employed and Protect Earned Pension Checks. The Paycheck Protection Program should be extended and we need to make sure it is used to protect jobs during the shutdown, not to boost stock prices. And we need to take action to protect current and future retirees whose pensions have been hit hard by the falling markets.
- Keep State and Local Governments, Our Public Schools and the US Postal Service Solvent and Working. The pandemic has blown a hole in state and local government and postal budgets. We cannot allow this to turn into mass layoffs that slash public services and further damage the economy.
- Keep America Healthy – Protect Health Insurance for All Workers. Millions of laid-off workers are losing their health insurance in the midst of a public health crisis. The government should step up to assume COBRA payments for these workers to prevent a new health catastrophe.
- Keep America Competitive – Hire People to Build Infrastructure. America needs substantial investments in roads, rail and bridges, while tens of millions are out of work. There will never be a better time to invest heavily in the upgrading of America’s transportation, communication and energy infrastructure.
These are indeed economic essentials if America is to recover stronger than ever from the covid pandemic. The Catholic Labor Network joins with the AFL-CIO in calling on the US Senate to address these issues in a sequel to the CARES Act.