Monday, March 16, 2020

Bail-Outs for Business - Too Little for Workers

Early Saturday morning the US House of Representatives voted 363-40 to pass a coronavirus relief package, days after the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. The US Senate won’t take the bill up until at least Monday, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to give Senators the weekend off.

In a letter to her Democratic colleagues Saturday  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote:
"I am very proud to write that the provisions we put forth with your input, including paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, enhanced Unemployment Insurance, food security initiatives and free and widespread testing, are all included in this agreement."

She is now facing widespread criticism for misrepresenting what the legislation would actually do. She neglected to mention the fine print. In fact, the bill guarantees sick leave only to about 20 percent of workers. Big employers like McDonald’s and Amazon are not required to provide any paid sick leave, while companies with fewer than 50 employees can seek hardship exemptions from the Trump administration.

The exemptions are the price of bipartisan support for the legislation, and bear the primary responsibility for the indefensible decision to prioritize corporate profits in the midst of a public health emergency.

Vice President Mike Pence said at a news conference on Saturday afternoon, 
“If you are sick, stay home. You’re not going to miss a paycheck.”

But that’s simply not true. Sick workers should stay home, but there is no guarantee in the emergency legislation that most of them will get paid.

The  failure to require universal paid sick leave endangers the health of workers, consumers and the wider American public.

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