Coronavirus update – Government Affairs
Dear Local Presidents,
As we continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to update you on the efforts our government affairs team have undertaken to protect TWU members’ health, safety, and jobs. Below is a summary of what our government has done and what we are asking them to consider on behalf of TWU members. We are encouraging all TWU members join this fight by calling their U.S. Senators at 202-224-3121 and demanding they pass a pro-worker coronavirus relief bill immediately.
Congress has discussed tackling the coronavirus in three phases. On March 6, the President signed into law phase one: $8.3 billion in spending for public health costs associated with the coronavirus. This spending is now reaching public health departments and research facilities working on a vaccine.
Phase two was passed by the House of Representatives on March 16: a bill focused on personal health. This bill (HR 6201) is currently awaiting action by the Senate and includes the following provisions.
- Paid leave for public employees who are diagnosed or quarantined with COVID-19
- Paid leave for public employees who are taking care of a child diagnosed or quarantined with COVID-19
- $1 billion for increased administrative costs at state unemployment insurance agencies
- Federally funded free testing for individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus
Private sector workers at large companies have been exempted from the paid leave requirements. TWU has been fighting to broaden these provisions to include ALL workers. We have also been fighting to include an emergency temporary standard from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). This standard would require employers to implement new, more stringent safety standard for workers in the areas most likely to be exposed to the virus – including public transportation. Unfortunately, both of these provisions were removed at the last minute at the request of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
The House and Senate are now constructing an economic stimulus package for the industries most effected by the drop in demand due to the virus. This bill may be introduced as soon as today (March 18). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has committed to include public transit in any transportation aid package.
The TWU is working with Congress to get $12.9 billion in emergency funding to transit agencies in the short term. This money would reimburse transit agencies for increased cleaning costs, as well as for decreased farebox revenues. These funds are essential for making up huge deficits expected at our transit agencies.
Additionally, we are demanding that any emergency funds be tied to labor protections and that none of the money be allowed to undermine existing collectively bargained agreements. Furthermore, we are asking that these funds be specifically directed to operations in order to ensure that no agency will be able to sideline any money away from the frontline workforce.
TWU has coordinated with the other public transit unions, as well as many transit agencies, in these efforts. Together, we are asking for Congress to move as quickly as possible to get this money into the system and into workers’ pockets.
If you have any questions on the ongoing legislative fight, please contact Zack Tatz, Director of Government Affairs, at ZTatz@twu.org.