Issued March 18, 2020
NATIONWIDE -- Workers at the forefront of the growing national crisis today launched Protect All Workers, a demand calling on leading industries -- from airlines to hospitals to fast-food and beyond -- to take immediate, sweeping, and concrete actions to protect the health, safety and financial security of all workers in America.
“Times of national emergency require us all to move beyond business as usual,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers. “The responsibility for our national response in this moment should not fall solely on the shoulders of taxpayers and government. We demand that the largest, wealthiest and most powerful corporations and industries show leadership by looking past their bottom lines to ensure the health, safety and financial security of all workers.”
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest healthcare workers’ union, and workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union, joined by SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, launched a set of comprehensive health, safety, and economic demands on large corporations and industries on a press call Wednesday afternoon. They also announced plans to mobilize thousands of working people to pressure corporate leaders and elected officials to protect all workers during the global pandemic and economic crisis.
“Not all homecare agencies are providing safety essentials like masks and rubbing alcohol, which puts not only workers but also clients and family members at risk,” said Francis Hall, a home care worker, nurse and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “It’s not safe out there. Healthcare workers are getting exposed and then have to go back home to their family members, some of whom may be vulnerable populations, exposing them as well. The state and agencies need to provide the necessary protective supplies and give us clear guidelines on protecting ourselves from COVID-19 on the job now.”
Mary Kay Henry, president of the nearly two million-member Service Employees International Union, will send letters starting on Thursday to each of the CEOs of the major airlines, healthcare corporations, fast-food companies like McDonald’s, and more. An open letter from Protect All Workers to America’s CEOs will run as a full-page ad in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.
“If Congress bails out the airlines, [workers] need to be considered this time around,” said Tim Maddox, a Los Angeles airport worker and member of SEIU United Service Workers West, on a press call Wednesday. “We are on the front lines of the coronavirus here in a high-risk area. LAX workers are testing positive for the virus. Let’s let that sink in—people are going to work and coming home with a deadly virus. We are making huge sacrifices. Our health, safety, and economic security absolutely must be part of any airline bailout.”
Protect All Workers is driven by front-line workers from across the service sector -- including hospital workers and home care workers, janitors, security workers, school support staff, fast-food cooks and cashiers, and beyond -- who, even as this pandemic grows, risk their health and safety to provide medical care, child care and in-home care, clean and protect offices, homes and airports, and feed our communities.
"In the last two weeks, it hasn’t been easy to adapt and adjuncts have had to readjust and find ways that work best to continue our students’ education," Baltimore adjunct professor Valeria Pappas-Brown shared on a press call Wednesday. "We should not have to rely on government assistance, worry about job security and depend on unemployment benefits or stress about our own student loan debt at a time like this. Our collective demand to Protect All Workers, doesn’t only mean protection in a time of crisis. It means to ensure workers the benefits we need at all times to avoid a crisis at any and all levels."
Millions of workers remain largely unprotected from COVID-19’s potentially devastating health and financial effects, and millions more, already living on the edge, face the loss of jobs, fewer hours and potential long-term, generational economic catastrophe.
“Taking an unpaid sick day, paying for medical treatment, or even covering my monthly bills, with the little I get paid is simply impossible,” said Maurilia Arellanes, a San Jose, Ca. McDonald’s worker in the Fight for $15 and a Union. “Workers like me were living on the brink before this crisis thanks to corporations like McDonald’s that keep our wages down and don’t provide healthcare. Now, we’re losing hours and being pushed over the edge. Workers in America are the ones who need relief. Corporations need to step up and make things right.”
Thousands Mobilizing to Demand Health and Financial Protection
Protect All Workers includes members of the Service Employees International Union -- the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers -- and the hundreds of thousands of working people with the Fight for $15 and a Union who have come together and are mobilizing to demand corporations act aggressively to ensure the health, safety and financial security of all workers -- Black, white, brown and Asian-Pacific Islander, no matter where they live.
In the coming days and weeks, thousands of workers will organize and mobilize online to drive their demands into boardrooms and C-suites across America. The campaign’s initial plans include:
“There must be no blank checks for corporations like McDonald’s or United Airlines,” said Henry. “Systems and structures such as contracting and franchising, designed to evade responsibilities to workers and for costs, must be superseded by new corporate commitments to take care of workers who face the most risk of dangerous illness or financial calamity. And America’s largest and wealthiest corporations must pay their fair share to invest in critical public services and infrastructure that are too often starved -- from healthcare to public safety and schools -- so that all people can rely on these systems, all the time, in this and in the next crisis.”
Protect All Workers -- National Demands
At the center of the campaign are four demands for America’s largest and wealthiest corporations to take responsibility not just for their bottom line, but also for the health of our nation, the communities on whose work they depend and for the long-term financial health and security of all workers, regardless of where they work, their race, their immigration status, or current healthcare coverage. Protect All Workers also calls on elected leaders of every party, at all levels of government, to put the health, safety and financial well-being of American workers first in their efforts to address this crisis. The four demands are:
1. Fully-funded and accessible healthcare for every worker in America, including paid leave and 100%-paid testing and treatment for COVID-19. Corporations must provide full healthcare coverage to direct and franchise employees and contractors. Any uninsured person not covered by their employer should automatically be enrolled in Medicaid. In addition, every worker must be covered by permanent, comprehensive paid leave policies, providing immediate access to 12 weeks’ leave at full pay for workers who are sick, mandated to stay home, or need to care for their loved ones.
2. Job, wage, and economic security for every worker. Establish industry funds to reimburse in full any wages lost by workers whose hours or jobs have been cut or cut back. These funds must cover direct and franchise employees and contractors, and must provide regular payments, compensating tipped workers at a rate of at least $15/hr. In addition, industries must provide easily accessed emergency child care funds, debt-relief, and housing assistance.
3. Immediate investment in the health and safety of every worker. Provide emergency relief for states to hire and train more healthcare workers and first responders, and expand healthcare, long term care, and child care coverage. Corporations and industries should take aggressive, immediate measures to ensure clean, safe, and sanitary work environments and protection from infection during this health crisis, with continuing access to personal protective equipment and training, now and in the future.
4. Working families at the center of every emergency relief package. Elected leaders of every party, at all levels of government, must act to put the health, safety, and financial well-being of American workers first in their efforts to address this crisis. Any industry relief or bailout must prioritize healthcare and financial support for workers over executive pay, shareholders or profits. Further, these relief efforts must directly address the disproportionate impact of economic and health crises on Black, brown, Asian Pacific Islander, and immigrant workers.
To learn more about Protect All Workers, visit www.protectallworkers.org.
Service Employees International Union
The Service Employees International Union is the nation's second-largest labor union and the largest union of healthcare workers. SEIU is an organization of nearly 2 million members united by their belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.
Fight for $15 and a Union
Since 200 fast-food workers first walked off the job in 2012 demanding $15/hr and union rights at McDonald’s, the Fight for $15 and a Union has grown into an international, worker-led movement. In the U.S., it has won more than $70 billion in annual raises for more than 24 million workers. Seven states and dozens of cities have passed laws raising their wages to $15/hr. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the groundbreaking Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage nationwide from $7.25 to $15/hr. Today, more than 30% of all workers in the United States are on their way to earning $15 an hour.