Covid-19 Crisis: ‘Workers Who Can Work from Home – and Those Who Cannot’

Mary Kay Henry, president of 32BJ SEIU.

Amid worker layoffs and projected layoffs of workers, SEIU leaders want to make sure a proposed $50 billion federal airline industry bailout contains worker protections, including generous sick leave, back pay for missed work and healthcare and relief to keep their members on the rolls and prevent a catastrophic worker tailspin on top of a deadly virus.

“We are pounding away and making the case for [legislation] that addresses multiple issues simultaneously,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), (pictured), which organizes 32,000 contracted airport workers, said on a conference call this afternoon with reporters. “We are deeply concerned about the economic slow down and its impact on service workers and its impact on neighborhoods.”

According to CNN, US airlines slammed by the coronavirus are requesting an aid package from the federal government that could amount to about $50 billion, according to industry group Airlines for America.

The requested aid would be in the form of loans, grants and tax relief. The airlines are looking for up to $25 billion in grants for passenger air carriers and $4 billion in grants to cargo carriers, and the same amounts in loans or loan guarantees, Airlines for America outlined in a briefing document.

“The goal will be to keep people working,” said Rob Hill, vice president of the union, who said $15 salaries the union secured for workers won’t be enough as they struggle on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“We must invest in airport workers whose health and livelihood are on the line,” said Henry. “This is about the haves and the have nots. It’s about those who can work from home and those who cannot. It is about those with healthcare and those without.

“We must resolve these injustices once and for all,” the labor leader said.

A Newark Airport worker named Takiah described her life right now as a battle, as the single mother tries to juggle her dangerous, c0vid-19 close-promixty duties at work with taking care of chilren who are now home from school.

As an airport worker at an international terminal, “I am most likely to be affected first,” she said.

“If the airlines are being bailed out, I need to be bailed out too,” Takiah said. “The bailout cannot leave behind contracted workers like me.”

 

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