The coronavirus pandemic has obviously taken a toll on the nation’s economic security. Millions have lost their jobs in the last four months. But while there have been some encouraging signs, millions of additional public sector jobs are hanging in the balance because hard-hit state and local governments might not be able to cover their salaries in the months to come.
A recent blog by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explains what’s at stake. State and local governments are facing a shortfall in tax revenues while doling out additional services due to COVID-19. Female and Black workers will be disproportionately affected by such cuts because they are employed in the public sector at higher rates. That’s why the Teamsters and other unions have been stressing the need for Congress to make additional funds available to retain these workers.
“Most states had to balance their budgets on June 30 and are holding their breath waiting for additional federal funds that they can use retroactively to avoid furloughs,” said Sunshine McBride, deputy director of the Teamsters Department of Political and Legislative Affairs.
A solution will not be cheap. House Democrats approve a bill in May that made $1 trillion available to states and localities. Those monies must be flexible so governments can use the dollars to cover revenue shortfalls, not just coronavirus-related expenses.
As it stands, however, the Senate is not willing to cover the price tag. This comes even though many in the GOP are pushing to opens schools in the fall, which undoubtedly would be a significant cost if it safe to do so at all.
Protecting public sector jobs is paramount. As EPI notes, “state and local government workers are far more likely to be unionized than workers in the private sector. Nearly 39 percent of state and local public sector workers are union members, compared with only 7 percent in the private sector.
“For decades, private-sector unions have been under attack, with employers routinely, and illegally, interfering in workers’ efforts to unionize—despite a broad desire for union representation among private-sector workers. The public sector has done a far better job at protecting workers’ rights to act collectively, despite a barrage of legislative and judicial attacks.”
Congress returns to the nation’s capital on July 20. Securing enough funds for public sector workers is a top concern. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues not to prioritize additional relief for these workers.
He is jeopardizing the security of Americans. That is not right nor is it just.