Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy:
We are writing on behalf of workers like like Mendy Hughes, a Walmart cashier in Arkansas, and millions like her:
"We're exposed to hundreds of people who come into Walmart every day. Most of us don't have paid time off because cashiers are part time. We won't get the two weeks off with pay unless we have a confirmed case, but it's hard to get tested. I'm diabetic, so I know it would be harder for me to heal if I did get the virus. But I'm a single parent - I have to work to pay my bills."
As our nation struggles with the COVID-19 outbreak, we are glad to see recognition from Congress that paid sick days and paid family leave are vital tools for recovery. The pandemic has made painfully clear that the health of all of us depends on the health of each person we come in contact with and each person they’ve come in contact with. We are all better off when every one of us — especially the most vulnerable among us — is able to stay healthy.
And yet, the response packages passed so far left out millions, with the Department of Labor’s rules excluding even more. In addition to first responders and health care providers, those workers include many of the people responsible for growing and preparing our food, scanning and sorting our groceries, putting together and delivering needed supplies, cleaning critical work areas, handling calls for assistance, and much more. Our families matter, our health matters, regardless of the size employer we work for, where we were born, or the kind of work we do. Workers, especially those on the frontlines, deserve all the tools to protect themselves right now, from personal protective equipment to paid leave.
We call on Congress to ensure that the upcoming relief legislation fills the gaps and expands paid sick days and paid leave to cover every worker who needs to get a diagnosis, self-quarantine, deal with the virus, care for a loved one who is ill, or care for children when their schools or child care providers are shut down. Paid family and medical leave provisions need to include time for those seriously ill with the virus and those who provide care for them, in addition to covering families whose children’s schools or childcare providers are closed. The time should be at full pay for each type of usage. Paid leave laws should become a permanent part of our national public health infrastructure.
This is the moment for political leaders to listen not to lobbyists for big corporations, but to the working people who make this country function. Include us and the millions like us. Only then will our nation be on the road to recovery.
Members of the Worker Advisory Group of Paid Leave for All
Debbi Simmons Harris