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Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the events of the weekend

My heart is heavy at the events of the past few days. I watched the video of George Floyd pleading for his life under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. No person of conscience can hear Floyd’s cries for help and not understand that something is deeply wrong in America.

Nurses and other health care worker advocates and the labor movement represented by the AFL-CIO filed legal charges against the government to require mandated COVID-19 -related standards. Last week the AFL-CIO filed a 70-page petition in federal court to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard protecting U.S. workers against being infected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) at work. The lawsuit asks the courts to require OSHA to fulfill its lawful duty.

Postal union officials called for more financial support in upcoming COVID-relief packages on Wednesday, warning that the agency could run out of money by the end of September and disrupt essential services. “Without real relief, appropriated relief, not more debt, not more loans, appropriated relief, … the post office could likely run out of money by early fall,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

New data released by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union shows that among the grocery store workers it represents, 10,000 have been infected by or are known to have been exposed to coronavirus and 68 have died from it. At least 3,257 have been infected with the virus, the union estimated on Friday. UFCW represents workers in large grocery store chains like Kroger, Albertson's, and Supervalu. Union President Marc Perrone said in a news conference on Wednesday that the cases have increased by 200% in five weeks.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an interview with The Hill’s Steve Clemons on Thursday that President Trump has “considered workers expendable” in efforts to reopen economies and workplaces.

The president of the Utility Workers Union of America called yesterday for a federal infectious disease standard for the workplace as one member of his union described being "terrified" of working during the coronavirus pandemic. The push for a federal standard by James Slevin, whose union has about 50,000 members, followed legal action this week by the AFL-CIO that aims to force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases. "We definitely need this today," Slevin told reporters on a conference call.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler said the union is using the pandemic to galvanize Amazon workers at company headquarters and enlist support from elected officials. Amazon had over 53,000 employees in Seattle in 2019. “Amazon’s backyard is Seattle, and that’s a major focus for us in terms of how to take the energy, the courage, the activism that we are already seeing there and build that into a real movement,” she said.

Gwen Brown is a PCA in Boston and member of 1199 SEIU. Gwen recently lost her partner of 19 years to COVID-19 and has been working throughout the crisis caring for her clients. Gwen shares her story with us as part of the Greater Boston Labor Council's #FrontlineHeroes series. Our series profiles the work of union members and everyday heroes who are working on the frontlines during the global pandemic. Stories are updated weekly. To read other Frontline Hero stories, click here: https://gblc.us/tag/frontline-heroes.