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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.

Boston area frontline unions have submitted policy proposals and recommendations for reopening. See below to download copies of each union's plan. 

PDF icon MA AFL-CIO

With states reopening for business and millions of people heading back to work, the nation's largest labor organization is demanding the federal government do more to protect workers from contracting the coronavirus on the job.

What's happening: The AFL-CIO, a collection of 55 unions representing 12.5 million workers, says it is suing the federal agency in charge of workplace safety to compel them to create a set of emergency temporary standards for infectious diseases.

Amidst the ongoing crisis, our state must forge a new social contract that puts the health and safety of workers at the center of public policy.

Even Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s recent letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, intended to defend his agency’s performance, offers little in terms of real enforcement. The word “guidance” and its variant “guidelines” appear nine times, as well as the observation that “employers are implementing measures to protect workers” (emphasis in original). Absent from the letter: the word “citation.” The word “penalty.”