Sara Lonardo

Issued December 21, 2020

SEIU’s Henry: COVID relief bill barely a down payment

More has to be done to address crisis faced by working families

SAN FRANCISCO -- Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry released the following statement on passage of a COVID-19 relief package:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we need bold action to protect the health, safety and economic security of essential workers on the frontlines of this crisis so that they are finally respected, protected and paid.

“Though not nearly sufficient, Congress has finally taken a small step that recognizes inaction is unacceptable. Working families will get money in their pockets to pay the bills, out of work Americans will not lose their unemployment, there is funding for vaccine distribution, cabin cleaners and other contracted airport workers will stay on the job, and some of the immigrant families - who were excluded from previous relief bills - will see the benefits in their own lives.  But this is just a down payment on what Congress needs to do to address the enormity of the crisis our nation is facing at this moment. 

“We can’t continue to give working people on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic just a pat on the back. We can’t continue to call these workers essential but treat them like they're expendable. Too many workers died and their families suffered while Republican congressional leadership insisted that the nation take a wait and see approach. Every action Congress takes should be about supporting working people to make sure they can put a roof over their heads and put food on the table, and that they can stay safe and healthy. And we definitely can’t follow the poor example of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump by playing politics with the lives of people, and putting corporate profit ahead of workers’ lives.

“Leaders in Congress must pass comprehensive relief legislation that includes emergency help for our cities, towns and states to keep our schools and communities running, and makes sure that during a pandemic our healthcare system has the resources it needs and people have the testing, treatment, vaccines and coverage they require. We also need to respect, protect, and pay all essential workers by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, passing paid sick days and leave for all, and providing adequate personal protective equipment, hazard pay and other protections. And relief and recovery means prioritizing long-term care, which makes our families and communities resilient. That means both making care affordable and transforming long-term care jobs, whether in nursing homes or people’s homes, into family sustaining union careers. 

“The road to recovery is long, but this moment of reckoning is an opportunity for us to build a path forward to a true multi-racial democracy and economy that works for everyone.”