Workforce

‘Essential Workers Bill of Rights’ could be component of next federal relief package

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ro Khanna urge Congress to offer protections for front-line employees, including foodservice workers.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have sent a proposal for an Essential Workers Bill of Rights to congressional leadership. They urged Congress to support front-line workers such as foodservice staff during the coronavirus pandemic by prioritizing basic protections for these workers in the next federal relief package. 

Essential workers include doctors, nurses, home care workers and other healthcare workers; grocery, c-store and drugstore workers; foodservice employees; domestic workers; federal, state and municipal employees; janitorial workers; farm workers; delivery drivers; warehouse workers; transportation workers; and child care workers.

“Front-line workers … are risking their lives to keep America running. Congress has a responsibility to protect them and their families," said Sen. Warren. "Essential workers in all fields lack the basic safety equipment and guarantees they need, and many essential workers are low-wage workers who were underpaid with minimal job protections even before this crisis hit. The next relief package needs to put these workers front and center—and include our Essential Workers Bill of Rights."

The Essential Workers Bill of Rights is comprised of: 

  1. Health and safety protections.
  2. Premium compensation.
  3. Protections for collective bargaining agreements.
  4. Universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave.
  5. Protections for whistleblowers.
  6. An end to worker misclassification.
  7. Healthcare security.
  8. Support for child care.
  9. Provisions to treat workers as experts.
  10. Provisions to hold corporations accountable for meeting their responsibilities.

More than 50 additional members have signed on to the proposed legislation. Click here to read the details of the proposal Warren and Khanna sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

The proposal follows legislation introduced earlier this month to help grocery and convenience-store employees weather the pandemic economically. U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) introduced the Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief Act, or GROCER Act. The representatives expect the legislation to be part of the latest stimulus bill being drafted in Congress.

The bill, H.R. 6567, would establish a four-month federal tax holiday for grocery and convenience-store employees from Feb. 15 through June 15 for individuals making less than $75,000 annually in a county that has at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

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