Warren Leads Effort to Add Union Influence, Whistle Blower Protections in Coronavirus Relief Bill

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to the media during a recess in the impeachment trial of the US president at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 27, 2020. - White House lawyers were to resume their defense of President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial Monday as …
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Congress is considering its next move to help the United States economy and the American people recover from the coronavirus outbreak and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said on Monday they want legislation to include free health care, higher pay, child care, and “whistle blower protection” for any worker deemed essential.

The two lawmakers said they are asking Congress to include “ten pro-worker policies” — i.e. union empowerment — in the relief package, according to law360.com website:

The Essential Workers Bill of Rights calls for free personal protective equipment, up to 14 paid sick days and access to child care for all essential workers, according to a press release from the lawmakers. Previous coronavirus relief legislation guaranteed only some workers paid sick leave, exempting all companies with more than 500 workers from the mandate.

The policy goals also include mandates forbidding companies from tampering with collective bargaining agreements during the pandemic, cracking down on worker misclassification and offering Americans paid family and medical leave.

Warren and Khanna want companies to guarantee they won’t fire workers for reporting unsafe conditions on the job related to the pandemic, according to the policy goals.

“Congress must pass Sen. Patty Murray’s Paid Leave Act, which provides 14 days of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, so essential workers can care for themselves, family members or dependents,” Warren and Khanna said in a statement issued on Monday.

The Paid Leave Act, which is co-sponsored by additional lawmakers including Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was introduced in the Senate on March 17.

The website report said:

Notably, the Essential Workers Bill of Rights includes a call for hazard pay, although it stops short of using those words. Instead, Warren and Khanna say Americans classified as ‘essential workers’ must ‘be paid robust premium pay to recognize the critical contribution they are making to our health and our economy.’

That “premium pay” should “provide meaningful compensation for essential work, be higher for the lowest-wage workers and not count towards workers’ eligibility for any means-tested programs,” Warren and Khanna said.

The lawmakers have not said how “premium pay” would be determined or how it would be paid for but said, nonetheless, it should be retroactive “to the start date of the pandemic.”

The bill these Democrats want also would “treat workers as experts” by using their input for safety and compensation requirements in any legislation considered.

“The government could seek that input by involving unions and other organizations that advocate for workers’ rights in policy discussions and in the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Warren and Khanna” said in the website report.

Congress in set to reopen on April 20 but a final decision has not been announced.

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