Workers Call on Congress to Meet Urgent Needs; Families First Coronavirus Response Act a First Step

Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is advocating for a coronavirus response that addresses this crisis fully, in solidarity with workers who demand protections from illness and economic ruin.  The Families First Coronavirus Response Act just passed by the U.S. Senate moves forward important elements of COVID-19 response.  The funding for nutrition assistance, public health priorities and unemployment insurance administration are necessary and welcome.

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However, there are significant flaws in this legislation that must be corrected by Congress immediately.  The paid sick days and paid leave policies in the Act are wholly insufficient to meet the needs of the moment, both in terms of income support for families and the public health imperative for people to stay home when necessary.  And the failure to direct OSHA to enact an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect health care and other at-risk workers is unconscionable.  Congress had an opportunity to provide extra protection for workers on the front line of responding to this crisis and left them on their own. In order for the US to respond successfully to this pandemic congress must act immediately to protect frontline workers.

In addition, we call on Congress to enact meaningful unemployment insurance reforms to make sure that benefits are widely available to those who need them as job losses continue to mount.  We need to ensure adequate benefits for all workers, not just those classified as “employees.”

Black, indigenous, and people of color, including immigrants in tenuous job situations, are at increased risk of health exposures, and among them: “gig,” temp, workers wrongly classified as independent contractors, workers in low-wage jobs, service workers, grocery and retail workers, airport workers, maintenance workers, homecare workers, and health care providers. We have the solutions to ensure that individuals most vulnerable in this situation have better protections as workers, so that families, and our delicate human web, can stay safe and healthy – we must pass subsequent legislation.

NELP is ready and willing to work with Congressional leaders on all of these priorities. Workers and their families deserve no less.

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