Working Americans during the COVID-19 era are facing significant challenges that are making it harder for them to get and keep a job. And for those jobs that do exist, there are workplace challenges that must be confronted.
There are more than a million Teamsters who are essential workers and have stayed on the jobsite while others work from home during this pandemic. They put their health and wellbeing, as well as that of their families, at risk so this country can continue to operate as close to normal as possible.
Hardworking Americans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. That means having good jobs that build a strong nation, pay a living wage, provide health care and retirement security and are safe for workers and the public. They also must not be traded away in unfair trade deals.
President Biden has taken steps to improve the lives of workers. First, he issued an executive order that called for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to reassess COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines, including emergency temporary standards. It allows OSHA to give clear direction on what emergency temporary standards – like a mandatory mask policy in the workplace – employers must follow.
He also invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to address vaccine and PPE shortages. The move helps accelerate the production of personal protective equipment and the COVID-19 vaccine and will help to keep frontline Teamsters and other workers safe.
But the President has also worked to create new jobs. He issued the Made in America Executive Order that sets in motion a series of reforms to current federal procurement policies that are designed to eliminate the excessive and unnecessary use of foreign suppliers through trade-pact waivers. These waivers, which can be used to procure goods from 60 countries that are U.S. trade partners, have allowed billions of tax dollars to be spent overseas rather than with American suppliers.
That said, there is still more to be done. The U.S. Department of Labor should make full use of existing enforcement authorities to support COVID-19 prevention and response, fill all existing vacancies for enforcement-related personnel, double the number of OSHA inspectors, and direct any available discretionary funding to further enhance enforcement resources.
And to keep good jobs going, the Biden administration should immediately end a pilot program that would lower the commercial driver’s license restriction from 21 to 18 and overturn the decision to preempt the California and Washington state meal and rest break laws and drop defense of meal and rest break preemption in court.
Good jobs are a main component of Teamsters’ work to deliver on campaign promises. That’s why the union started its Build Back Stronger program. The health, safety and financial security of American workers must be a top priority. That’s not only best for them, but what’s best for this country.