“We have a responsibility to make sure essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to, and the compensation they deserve.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pushing Congress to offer more protections for front-line workers in the next coronavirus relief package. The Massachusetts senator, along with California Rep. Ro Khanna, developed a 10-point “Essential Workers Bill of Rights” to cover all employees, including independent contractors and gig workers, deemed essential to the economy.
This includes employees at hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, day-care centers and warehouses—those whose continued work allows Americans to shelter at home.
Under the guidelines, companies would be required to provide workers with protective gear at no cost and to notify them if they came into contact with an infected colleague. The proposal also seeks “robust premium pay,” which would be retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic and not count against eligibility for food stamps or other assistance programs. It would be purely additional on top of an employee’s regular pay scale or salary.
The two lawmakers also want protections for whistleblowers, more money for childcare and free health care for essential workers.
“We have a responsibility to make sure essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to, and the compensation they deserve,” Warren said in a statement. “Essential workers are the backbone of our response to the coronavirus. They are putting their health and the health of their loved ones on the line to keep our country running — and we need to have their backs.”
The proposed plan would supplement the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion spending bill that directed money to households, businesses, cities, states and hospitals to buffer the coronavirus effects on the economy.
“Congress should ensure that any taxpayer dollars handed to corporations go to help workers, not wealthy CEOs, rich shareholders, or the President’s cronies,” Warren and Khanna wrote in their proposal. “Any federal funding should be designed to ensure that employers cannot skirt the rules by firing or furloughing workers or reducing their hours or benefits to access a tax credit or avoid a worker protection requirement.”