PITTSBURGH, March 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today applauded the bipartisan effort to pass a coronavirus stimulus package through the U.S. Senate and called on members of both congressional chambers to continue this effort to ensure that no workers are left behind in the face of the growing pandemic and its economic fallout.
The USW praised the bill for protecting jobs in vulnerable industries and providing expanded unemployment assistance, aid to small businesses, rebates to taxpayers, and funding for the U.S. health care system to treat and test patients and research vaccines, among other relief measures.
"The stimulus measure that the Senate passed yesterday is a significant improvement over the original Republican proposal, which would have provided a blank check for handouts to corporations with too little oversight, while not doing enough to help struggling workers and families," said USW International President Thomas M. Conway. "In particular, the expansion of unemployment payments is essential in this time of uncertainty, as jobless claims surge to historic levels. American workers must not be left behind."
The USW said Congress must now demand new workplace safety standards and additional funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as increased production of personal protective equipment to make sure workers who are still on the job, especially health care workers and other first responders, can stay healthy.
In addition, the union urged lawmakers to guarantee that all Americans receive health care regardless of their employment status and to shore up pension funds to ensure retirement security.
"This must be one of many measures to protect workers. Too many Americans are still worried - about their health, the health of their families, about losing their jobs, or about how they are going to pay their bills in the coming weeks and months. These are the people Congress must always put first, not corporate executives and Wall Street millionaires," Conway said.
The USW also said Congress must do more to ensure that paid sick and family leave is available to all workers who need it, and must remain vigilant so that companies don't use the crisis as an excuse to exploit workers.
"Congress must continue to use its oversight to make sure companies don't use this bailout as a means to enhance their bottom lines or line CEOs' pockets. This money should be used to preserve and enhance the future for workers," Conway said. "In addition, no American should wonder how they are going to care for themselves or their families during this pandemic. Barriers for patients must be removed, and costs must be kept to a minimum."
The USW called on the House to quickly pass the bill and the president to sign it. The union also said Congress may need to provide additional stimulus payments in the future.
"This is going to be an ongoing crisis, and its economic effects will be long and far-reaching," Conway said. "Congress will need to continue to make certain that the long-term effects of this pandemic don't leave American workers and families to continue to struggle."
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.