“Low-income workers who are most impacted—they deal in things like retail, hospitality, childcare and the gig economy—these are jobs that they cannot perform remotely so it’s not like you can get on a Zoom conference and do your work. You have to be physically there,” said Mark Gaston Pearce, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under the Obama administration and current executive director of Georgetown Law’s Workers’ Rights Institute. “The majority (of employers in that arena) do not offer paid sick leave or health insurance. Research has shown that low income is associated with a higher rate of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and these are factors that increase your vulnerability to COVID-19.”
As front-line workers, from emergency room staff to grocery store clerks, face an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19, they have little in the way of regulatory protections to fall back on. Democrats’ efforts to move worker protections through Congress have so far been stymied, and a regulatory process launched by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate protections from infectious disease exposure was back-burnered by the Trump administration.
...[Mark Gaston] Pearce sees some similarities between the mental distress the Facebook content moderators experienced and the stress essential workers have been under during the coronavirus emergency. Many essential workers are experiencing intense anxiety in high-risk environments. Their employers should be sensitive to this, and they should be proactive about providing mental health support, Pearce said.
"As part of an unprecedented $2 trillion stimulus bill expected to pass the Senate on Wednesday night, many Americans experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 will soon be eligible for a $1,200 check and expanded unemployment benefits. But despite promises from Democratic congressional leaders, the sweeping legislation will leave behind some of the country's most vulnerable residents: undocumented immigrants and mixed status families."
"The President is now calling the fight against the coronavirus a war. But in what kind of war do we send in troops without any armor? Our brave first responders and health professionals are working without the protective gear they need to keep safe. At the rate things are going, they may never get the gear they need if no one in the administration is accountable for prioritizing their safety."
"Approximately 50 workers at the Perdue Farms plant in Kathleen, Georgia, walked off the job Monday morning, saying they don’t feel safe working there during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re not getting nothing — no type of compensation, no nothing, not even no cleanliness, no extra pay — no nothing. We’re up here risking our life for chicken,” she said."
"Our country’s hybrid public-private safety net already has many holes that individuals and families in low- wage and unstable jobs are likely to fall through and is not prepared for a disruption of this scale. The Trump Administration has also been promoting policies, such as work reporting requirements and block grants, that would make the safety net—specifically health care—even less responsive.
Federal and state lawmakers should take steps now to fully protect people with low incomes and, at a minimum, ensure they are not disproportionately harmed as this crisis unfolds."
"[UFCW] Local 27 wants the government to provide supermarket employees with protective equipment, free coronavirus testing, protections against unfair termination or discrimination for any exposed workers, unemployment benefits for displaced workers and additional aid to help low-income families take care of their children, he said.
“Our members are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak and they need our financial support,” Chorpenning said. “They are performing an essential role during this crisis, and they must be able to do their jobs to meet the explosive demand for health and food.”"
"“The US government needs a response to the coronavirus that prevents people from having to choose between a missed paycheck and risking their and their families’ health,” said Lena Simet, senior poverty and inequality researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should target its economic stimulus packages to the low-income communities that will be hit first and hardest, and ensure an adequate standard of living for all.”"
"United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, a union representing grocery and food manufacturing workers among others, is calling on every employer represented by the union to provide enhanced sick leave policies amid the COVID-19 state of emergency."
"Moving forward, the Council [of the District of Columbia] will pass additional COVID response measures as needed to respond to the crisis. The measure passed at the most recent meeting was comprehensive, but is not intended as the final word on the topic."
"As the government engages in discussions with industry groups, negotiations should include business practices on issues such as worker pay, benefits, and training that can lift workers out of the near-poverty they were already facing.
At some point, this crisis will pass. As we move through it, let’s seek to create jobs that can sustain families and communities and promote broad-based economic well-being—not simply return to the status quo."