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Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) called for the next coronavirus relief package to pass Congress to include what they term an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights.” According to this press release from Senator Warren, there are ten elements to the Essential Workers Bill of Rights. Here they are, with some of my light edits to tighten them up and remove the especially-partisan verbiage.
1. Health and safety protections. Among other things, this would require businesses to take proactive actions when someone at the job site may have contracted coronavirus, including informing employees if they may have been exposed and evacuating the job site until it can be properly cleaned. Plus, OSHA must immediately issue a robust Emergency Temporary Standard to keep employees safe.
2. Robust premium compensation. Every frontline worker should receive premium pay (a/k/a hazard pay) retroactive to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which would not count towards workers’ eligibility for any means-tested programs.
3. Protections for collective bargaining agreements. Employers cannot change or dissolve any CBA, including during bankruptcy proceedings, until the COVID-19 crisis ends. They further imply that the NLRB should continue to hold union elections.
4. Truly universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave. Fourteen days of paid sick leave and twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave, as Senator Patty Murray has already requested.
5. Protections for whistleblowers. No retaliation against workers who witness and complain about unsafe conditions on the job or know about workplace coronavirus exposure.
6. An end to worker misclassification. Stronger laws against misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
7. Health care security. Use public programs to provide no-cost health care coverage for all, including illegal immigrants. Plus, a full federal subsidy for fifteen months of COBRA for employees who lose eligibility for health care coverage.
8. Support for child care. More funding for childcare providers to ensure essential workers have access to reliable, safe, healthy, and high-quality child care.
9. Treat workers as experts. Include essential workers, and their unions and organizations, in helping to develop specific workplace safety protocols.
10. Hold corporations accountable for meeting their responsibilities. Give workers a stake in how government stimulus funds are used in their workplaces. Plus, companies must use the funding for payroll retention, put workers on boards of directors, and remain neutral in union organizing drives. CEOs should be required to personally certify they comply with worker protections, so they can face civil and criminal penalties if they break their word.
Officially, Congress is on break until April 20. So, nothing should happen with this Essential Workers Bill of Rights in the short-term. But, if there is an update between now and then, either I’ll blog about it or update you on Friday (4/17) at Noon EDT before we play Factile.
Speaking of which, I’m still looking for a few contestants to play this jeopardy-style quiz game with me. If you are interested in being one of the three competitors, please sign up here. There will be prizes.
And for those of you who just want to attend, be part of the studio audience, and follow along on Friday (4/17) at Noon EDT when we test your COVID-19 workplace knowledge, click here for details.