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More Than 2.1 Million People Urge the Senate to Protect Essential Workers and Pass the HEROES Act

by Ryan Schleeter

May 21, 2020

"Now that the House has passed a COVID-19 relief package that includes the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, it’s time for the Senate to follow suit and vote to protect essential workers.”

Protect Essential Workers

Activists put a mask on one of the lion statues at the Grant Memorial near the US Capitol building urging Congress to protect essential workers and pass the HEROES Act.

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Washington, DC — Today, activists delivered more than 2.1 million petition signatures from people across the country demanding Congress protect essential workers and pass the HEROES Act. The activists began by putting a mask over one of the lion statues at the Grant Memorial west of the Capitol building before delivering the 2.1 million signatures to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office electronically.

Photos available here: https://media.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MDHUKSV9X 

Despite pouring trillions of dollars into supporting businesses and propping up the economy, previous COVID-19 relief efforts have failed to provide basic protections to the millions of healthcare providers, grocery workers, transit operators, and many others who are keeping the country running during this pandemic. Even as the COVID-19 death toll rises and 36 million people face unemployment, Republicans in Congress have inexplicably said they still don’t feel the need to act [1].

Jayne Meyer, a nurse at SSM St. Mary’s in Madison, Wisconsin who organizes with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said: 

“I’ve stopped seeing family or loved ones in person so I don’t risk exposing them. Healthcare workers hear all the time that we are heroes, that our jobs are essential. But it feels as though our lives are not being treated as essential. Elected leaders at every level should be doing everything in their power to get us the PPE and support we need to do our vital jobs safely and effectively.”

Groups across the progressive movement joined forces last month to ensure elements of the Essential Workers Bill of Rights [2] were included in future relief packages. As a result, the HEROES Act includes $200 billion for hazard pay, paid sick and family medical leave, childcare support, OSHA protections, funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), collective bargaining protections, inclusion for immigrants, and a broad definition of “essential” to protect all workers whose health and safety are at risk.

Together, progressive organizations [3] have collected more than 2.1 million petition signatures urging Congress to protect essential workers. Today, the American Federation of Teachers, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Daily Kos, Greenpeace USA, MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union issued the following statement:

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s priorities have been completely out of line with what our country needs. Essential workers — from healthcare providers to warehouse workers, delivery drivers to food industry workers and more — have been forced to needlessly put their safety on the line for far too long while the Republican-led COVID-19 response has prioritized corporations over people. Now that the House has passed a COVID-19 relief package that includes the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, it’s time for the Senate to follow suit and vote to protect essential workers.”

According to a Data for Progress poll released yesterday, 67 percent of voters across party lines support the HEROES compared to just 17 percent opposed.

ENDS

Update 4:24pm EST, May 21, 2020: The full letter sent to Senator Mitch McConnell is available here.

Notes:

[1] On the same day that US COVID-19 deaths passed 80,000, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately.” COVID-19 deaths in the US have since passed 93,000.

[2] Proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), the Essential Workers Bill of Rights is a ten-step policy framework for protecting frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those provisions were included in the HEROES Act passed by the House on May 15, 2020.

[3] The organizations contributing petition signatures to today’s delivery are: 350.org, ActionAid USA, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, Americans for Democratic Action, AFGE Local 704, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Be A Hero Fund, Care in Action, Center for Coalfield Justice​, Courage California, Environmental Health Strategy Center, Friends of the Earth Action, Green America, Greenpeace USA, Daily Kos, Labor Network for Sustainability, MoveOn, Oil Change U.S., Oxfam America, People’s Lobby, Progress America, Pride at Work, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Presente.org, Rethink Trade, Rising Tide North America, Service Employees International Union, Tax March, UltraViolet, United Food and Commercial Workers, United for Respect, Warren Democrats, Women’s March, and the Working Families Party.

Contact: Ryan Schleeter, Greenpeace USA: [email protected], +1 (415) 342-2386

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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