More than a month into the nationwide fight to combat the coronavirus, the Teamsters are using their legislative lobbying power to protect workers from both illness and economic distress.
The union’s Department of Political and Legislative Action has been active in letting lawmakers know about the needs of members, be it for personal protective equipment (PPE), expanded unemployment benefits or direct stimulus checks many are receiving right now.
“Hardworking Americans nationwide are facing an unprecedented health calamity that is challenging our way of life,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “Working families not only need to worry about potential illness, but the loss of wages due to sickness and from businesses being shuttered.”
The most recently enacted measure, known as the CARES Act, provides money for hard-hit industries that are thick with Teamster members. In the airline sector, for example, about $61 billion has been reserved specifically for companies. But there are worker protections with regards to layoffs, honoring bargaining agreements and neutrality in union campaigns.
The union is also offering assistance to other Teamster employers who are seeking relief from the U.S Treasury Department when it comes to seeking government funds.
While the Teamsters had their fingerprints all over the first three stimulus bills, their efforts aren’t stopping there. Union staff will be pushing for future stimulus legislation expected in the coming weeks to include pension protection; expansion of access to health benefits for those who lose their jobs through federal subsidies; a comprehensive emergency standard from Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide consistent enforceable standards for employers to protect employees during this crisis; additional funds for states and localities and in particular for PPE; and elimination of the 500+ employee cap on the paid leave provisions provided in legislation that passed that month.
Additional asks, however, are likely. As guidance comes out from federal agencies, the list of items that must be corrected, expanded or improved in so-called stimulus four legislation is growing. Many CARES Act provisions may need to be extended the longer the coronavirus crisis continues.