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The path to the presidency runs through the labor movement.

Thousands of working people across the country joined together on June 17 in a national day of action. We called for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act and for Congress to take actions to address structural racism. The HEROES Act is grounded in America’s Five Economic Essentials that are desperately needed to keep working people safe and financially secure. This day of action was just the beginning. Today and every day that follows, working people will mobilize like never before to make the HEROES Act the law of the land and rid our institutions of systemic racism.

Support for the labor movement is the highest in nearly half a century, yet only one in 10 workers are members of unions today. How can both be true?

Even Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s recent letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, intended to defend his agency’s performance, offers little in terms of real enforcement. The word “guidance” and its variant “guidelines” appear nine times, as well as the observation that “employers are implementing measures to protect workers” (emphasis in original). Absent from the letter: the word “citation.” The word “penalty.”
“This isn’t just about infection control, which is how the CDC looks at it, this is about exposure assessment,” said Rebecca Reindel, safety and health specialist with the labor organization AFL-CIO. “You look at how people are exposed. Your main source of exposure is other people and so where you’re mainly running into other people right now is the workplace.”

Every labor communicator is responding to minute-by-minute changes in policies and practices affecting workers’ livelihoods. ILCA members are challenged to process, manage, and disseminate essential information to both internal and external audiences. Just by doing our work, labor communicators are producing real-time, textbook examples of crisis communications case studies. In this new series, we’ll profile national newsmakers who are amplifying labor’s call to protect the physical and economic health of workers.

Sticking to a here-and-now solution to coronavirus-caused joblessness, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka proposed the federal government guarantee paid employment – by actually shelling out the money – for all workers. Employers would be a pass-through, nothing more. In a 13-minute speech posted on the federation’s Facebook page, Trumka said that with unemployment at highs unseen since the Great Depression and with the future clouded by millions of jobless people, now is not the time for partisan politics. Instead he declared, lawmakers should unite, as some already have, behind federal subsidies straight into workers’ pockets, and not to CEOs or Wall Street. Trumka also warned, as public health specialists have, against reopening the economy too soon. Right-wing pressure has forced some states to yield and start reopening businesses, even without enough coronavirus testing, a lack Trumka pointed out. Doing so, he declared, could put us right back down again. “If we reopen before we’re ready, if we reopen because we’re impatient, if you send workers into unsafe workplaces, if you send consumers into an unsafe community, we’ll be reopening an economic wound that will make it much harder to heal down the road."

Entertainment workplaces need more time and data to prepare and change the way show business works. “Here’s the reality: Because of the nature of the industry, arts and entertainment professionals may likely be some of the last workers able to return safely to their jobs,” said Liz Shuler, the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer. “And when they do, they’re not going to be returning to ‘normal’; it’s going to be a very different approach to the industry.

The United States now has more than a million reported coronavirus cases, by far the most of any country in the world. The health of our nation, physically and economically, depends on the safety of our workers. That has always been true, but perhaps never more so than in the face of today’s crisis — and it’s why we need clear and decisive action from the White House. President Trump has given us more confusion than solutions, failing to use his executive authority to protect working people.

As Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, wrote in a public letter to the U.S.

“For all workers, the toll of COVID-19 infections and deaths is mounting and will increase even more rapidly as workers return to work without necessary safety and health protections,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote in the letter, which listed dozens of members who have died from the virus. He faulted the agency for not doing more inspections, not issuing citations and releasing only voluntary coronavirus safety guidelines. “Without government oversight and enforcement, too many employers are disregarding safety and health standards,” he wrote.