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HEROES Act Would Provide Relief for Public-Sector Workers

With states looking at budget shortfalls because of COVID-19, public workers could be the first to suffer from cuts. (peuceta/Adobe Stock)
With states looking at budget shortfalls because of COVID-19, public workers could be the first to suffer from cuts. (peuceta/Adobe Stock)
June 30, 2020

SEATTLE -- Union workers say it's time for Congress to support public-sector workers and pass the HEROES Act. The $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation passed in the House in May would provide $875 billion to state and local governments, which have been hit hard by COVID-19.

Carissa Hahn is executive vice president of the Communications Workers of America local in Seattle and works at AT&T Mobility.

"So with everyone depending on public-sector workers, we can't turn our backs on them," Hahn said. "We need to have everyone come together, because the whole community is going to suffer if these workers aren't providing their job services."

Other unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and American Federation of Teachers, also are calling on the Senate to pass the HEROES Act.

Legislative specialist with the Communications Workers of America Elena Lopez said the bill has other benefits, including strengthening Occupational Safety and Health Administration work standards. She said OSHA has only issued voluntary guidelines for protecting workers during this pandemic. Greater protections could keep employers from creating unsafe work places.

"It ensures protections so that if workers don't feel comfortable going to work that they can report their employer and not be fired for doing so," Lopez said.

Hahn said it's crucial that relief efforts go to workers, not big corporations. She said the workers in need right now are the backbone of the economy and of communities.

"If our community is in jeopardy, then we're all in jeopardy," Hahn said. "And I think that that moment is becoming very clear right now."

The HEROES Act also includes hazard pay for front-line workers as well as extended paid sick leave and unemployment benefits.

Disclosure: Communications Workers of America contributes to our fund for reporting on Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA