- Warren unveiled a 10-point “Bill of Rights” plan calling for higher wages and universal sick pay for essential workers.
- “Frontline workers are risking their lives to keep America running,” Warren said in a tweet. “We can’t rely on big business to protect them.”
- Millions of people continue to work at grocery stores, pharmacies, and warehouses for relatively low wages, even as Americans largely stay indoors.
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a 10-point “Bill of Rights” plan for essential workers on Monday urging higher wages and universal sick pay.
Joined by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna in the House, Warren called on Congress to go far beyond the $US2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that was approved by President Trump last month.
Warren said employees deemed essential during the pandemic – such as grocery store employees, health workers, and child care providers – deserve a range of additional benefits to protect their health and wellbeing.
“Frontline workers are risking their lives to keep America running,” Warren said in a tweet. “We can’t rely on big business to protect them.”
Frontline workers – health care, transit, farm, grocery, domestic & delivery workers – are risking their lives to keep America running. We can’t rely on big business to protect them. So @RepRoKhanna & I are proposing an Essential Workers Bill of Rights to #ProtectEssentialWorkers pic.twitter.com/XlO1TKguVI
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 13, 2020
The plan would compel employers to provide protective gear to their workers and notify those who may have been exposed to an infected colleague. It would also provide essential workers access to free healthcare and implement protections for whistleblowers who shed light on unsafe working conditions.
The proposal also calls for Congress to implement 14 days of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave for essential workers – as well as “robust premium pay” that’s retroactive from the beginning of the pandemic.
Democrats last month rolled back initial paid leave provisions from the second coronavirus relief package, tightening eligibility rules for workers seeking sick pay beyond the first two weeks. The Trump administration diminished its scope earlier this month, effectively allowing small businesses to choose whether they extend it to their employees.
There is growing clamor among Democrats to ramp up pay and benefits for this part of the workforce. Last week, Senate Democrats rolled out a plan for a $US25,000 “pandemic premium pay increase” for essential workers until the end of 2020.
Though many Americans are living under stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus, millions of employees deemed essential continue to work in grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, and daycare centres. Many say they’re short of protective gear like gloves, and they report working longer hours to meet heightened demand for critical services.
Many essential workers are also earning relatively low pay. The average hourly wage for a grocery worker, for example, was $US11.43 in 2018, data from the Labour Department shows.
At least 41 grocery store workers have died during the pandemic and thousands more tested positive for the virus, The Washington Post reported.
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