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WA Essential Workers Eye Congress' Next Relief Bill

Jose Atil is a paraeducator for English language learners in Vancouver, Wash., and also works at Camp Evergreen, a day care program for the children of first responders. (PSE SEIU Local 1948)
Jose Atil is a paraeducator for English language learners in Vancouver, Wash., and also works at Camp Evergreen, a day care program for the children of first responders. (PSE SEIU Local 1948)
May 18, 2020

SEATTLE -- The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the next round of coronavirus relief, and some essential workers in Washington state are watching the bill closely.

Jose Atil, a paraeducator for English language learners in Vancouver and a member of the Public School Employees of Washington Service Employees International Union Local 1948, says access to sick leave and protections for workers are crucial.

"Permanent paid sick days and family leave," Atil states. "This means expanding the health care coverage for our uninsured and making sure that there's PPE for all our essential workers."

The $3 trillion HEROES Act that passed last week extends paid leave protections from Congress' last stimulus package. SEIU wants the bill to provide increased wages so essential workers receive time-and-a-half pay.

Atil says his district is making a push to get high school seniors to complete their work and graduate, which has been a challenge. He's also been helping at Camp Evergreen, a day care program for the children of first responders and medical professionals.

Atil adds that with revenue declining and demand for vital services increasing, investment in state and local governments to help public employees and first responders is critical.

"I would rather see the packages put out helping more in that direction rather than hearing big business making the funding that becomes available going into their coffers," he stresses.

Demetrus Dugar is a security officer in downtown Seattle and a member of SEIU Local 6. He isn't receiving increased pay during the crisis, but still is putting his and his family's health on the line. That's highlighted when he comes home from work to his four children.

"They all want to rush and come, 'Hey, Daddy!'" he relates. "I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no. Let me change my clothes. Let me wash my hands.' And stuff like that. 'I don't want you guys to touch. I don't want anything to get on you.' "

Dugar says regardless of their profession, all essential workers need protections.

"All of us need to be treated equally and on the same playing field," he stresses. "We all need the same equipment because we got to protect others and we got to protect ourselves."

Disclosure: SEIU Washington State Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA