The CSC–AAUP has been invited to sign two statements in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in relation to risks facing Connecticut workers, particularly in regard to their working conditions and financial stability.
Emergency Labor Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
Due to inaction by the federal government and other authorities, the COVID-19 pandemic has passed a tipping point in the United States, particularly in the northeast. This document aims to give voice to the immediate and long term needs of working people. With this document we are seeking to work in collaboration with the Connecticut labor and social justice movements, the unemployed, underemployed, and non-union to fight for a future where workers are not economically and medically devastated.
For this reason, extraordinary measures must be taken to slow the spread of the virus, to protect working people, and to care for everyone in our society. To date, despite numerous emergency declarations, these measures are not being pursued adequately.
As social distancing is an essential measure in slowing the spread of COVID-19, only those workers who absolutely need to be on the job away from home during this crisis in order to fulfill immediate and basic human needs should do so at this time. All others must either work from home or go on an indefinite leave with full pay and benefits for the entire duration of the crisis. Except for extreme circumstances, workers over 55, with compromised immune systems, or with other serious health problems which put them at high risk for serious COVID-19 infections should be given indefinite leave, again, with full pay and benefits for the entire duration of the crisis. Where individual employers do not have the financial means to pay workers on leave (mainly small businesses), state and federal government must step in and pay workers directly. Tipped, precarious, student, and gig workers must be paid for full-time work at union rates. More than ever, obtaining what working people need means fighting for everyone. As the pandemic has reminded us, an injury to one is an injury to all.
(This statement has so far been signed by members of the union leadership and union members from Untie Here Local 217, UFCW, Unite Here Local 2527T, UCONN GEU and Postdoc-UAW Local 6950. NEA/CEA, AFT. AAUP (UConn), SEIU, IBEW, Teamsters, and CT Alliance for Retired Americans.)
CT AFL-CIO Coronavirus Response for Connecticut’s Working Families
This statement calls on the state of Connecticut, by legislative action and executive action as appropriate, to
- Ensure the Unemployment Trust Fund is solvent by adding additional funds.
- Properly fund and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care, public safety and law enforcement personnel.
- Implement paid family and medical leave as quickly as possible.
- Expand paid sick day law by providing workers additional sick leave when the Governor declares a state of emergency.
- Protect workers who use paid sick time to take care of themselves or others from discipline or termination.
- Expand childcare opportunities and provide funding to health care workers to ensure they can return to work.
The full statement follows. Or go to https://www.ctaflcio.org/covid-19-proposals.
Much like measures they have taken to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health of Connecticut residents, Governor Lamont and the General Assembly can do a great deal to help workers who are facing increased health and safety concerns and aid workers who are feeling the adverse economic impacts of the virus.
Responses that may require legislative action:
State and Municipal Employees
- Require municipalities and boards of education to continue paying all municipal and board of education workers, including contracted workers, such as school bus drivers and monitors. Municipal and board of education budgets have been passed and are funded. If not for the virus, these workers would have been working and the money is there to pay them.
- Ensure that hourly, 10-month workers employed directly by local boards of education (e.g. paraprofessionals) and those employed by contractors who provide contracted services to local board of education (e.g. school bus drivers and monitors), qualify for unemployment benefits.
- Require state colleges and universities to continue paying all workers, including contracted workers, such as cafeteria workers. Universities have budgets that have been passed and are funded, and workers should not bear the costs of decisions to refund students for meal plans.
- Ensure that those filing for unemployment do not see a reduction in their benefits because their base period includes quarters during which hours were lost due to worksite shutdowns related to the coronavirus.
- Expand the dollar amount and duration of unemployment benefits during the crisis.
- Ensure that the Unemployment Trust Fund is solvent by adding additional funds from the state’s budget reserve fund and/or available federal stimulus funds and loans.
- Implement paid family and medical leave as quickly as possible using the state’s budget reserve fund and/or available federal stimulus funds and loans.
- Expand the state’s paid sick days law by providing workers additional sick leave and extending it to all workers when the Governor declares a state of emergency.
- Ensure that employers do not discipline, terminate or otherwise retaliate against workers who utilize sick time, FMLA, disability, unemployment or any other benefit to which they are entitled during a public health emergency.
Health and Safety
- Ensure that employers do not discipline, terminate or otherwise retaliate against workers who decline to work additional hours or cannot be mandated to work additional hours because they are sick or caring for someone who is sick during a public health emergency.
- Waive unforeseen costs by employees forced onto COBRA or Husky as a result of the coronavirus.
- Hold frontline workers (childcare workers, DCF employees, juvenile justice professionals, etc.) harmless from liability of any kind when they must make timely decisions about the welfare of those in their charge in a public health crisis.
- Adopt Airborne Pathogen workplace standards under Connecticut Occupational Health and Safety Laws which would be binding on all public employers and provide guidance for private employers (only Federal OSHA can create a standard that binds private employers).
- Provide healthcare workers protection from employer retaliation. As they are being asked to work more shifts with dwindling PPE and continually changing guidance from the CDC, healthcare workers are scared. They are afraid they won’t be protected and get infected, their patients will be infected and their families will be infected. They need protections against employer retaliation and termination if they decline to work extra hours.
- Ensure that healthcare workers are covered by workers’ compensation by creating a presumption that if they contract COVID-19, they contracted it on the job and are therefore eligible.
- Ensure that all direct patient care healthcare workers receive hazard pay, equal to a minimum of one and one-half of their regular hourly wage, for all hours worked during a public health emergency.
- Ensure that any healthcare worker who is required to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to suspected COVID-19 symptoms; or who tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, receives 100% paid leave for the time they are unable to work.
- Deem licensed acupuncturists essential because the treatments they provide serve to boost immunological resistance to the coronavirus.
Responses that may be addressed through executive action:
- Properly fund and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care, public safety and law enforcement personnel, and staff nursing homes and hospitals to respond to increased patient volume and comply with health and safety protocols.
- Expand child care opportunities and provide funding for health care workers to ensure they can report to work.
- Establish a moratorium on sales of nursing homes, hospitals and other health care facilities during a public health emergency.
- Fund fiscal intermediaries that contract with the state to ensure that payroll services for low-wage home care workers are not interrupted and provide an outlet to solve any payroll issues within 24 hours.
- Ensure that state agencies are in fact implementing the Governor’s executive order to telecommute to the greatest extent possible.
- Designate retail, grocery and food processing workers as first responders and mandate employers to provide childcare and at least two weeks of paid leave.
- Re-open the Department of Public Health’s licensure office and allow other agencies to perform required background checks to enable to state hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities to hire more nurses, CNAs and other healthcare professionals.
- Create strategies to ensure all residents have access to adequate food and shelter throughout this public health emergency.
To send letters of support: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/support-connecticuts-working-families-during-covid-19-pandemic/