Important COVID-19 Update from the AFL-CIO
Federal CARES Act Passes Congress
Late last week, Congress passed the CARES Act for economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, including increasing unemployment benefits. Check the charts below to see if you or your members may be eligible for unemployment insurance.
For more resources on how to navigate unemployment insurance in Massachusetts, click here.
Click here for an updated fact sheet from Greater Boston Legal Services (UAW 2320) on Unemployment Insurance benefits that incorporates the CARES Act.
Mass Building Trades Council Calls for Statewide Suspension of Regular Construction Activities
The Massachusetts Building Trades Council voted unanimously this week to call on Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker to declare a statewide suspension of all regular activity at construction sites in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts beginning Friday April 3rd and continuing through April 30th.
Read the below statement from MassCOSH concerning Governor Baker’s order to resume construction:
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s March 25 order to resume construction, requiring local authorities to withdraw orders that keeps construction workers safely at home, places profits over people at best, and at worst, is immensely dangerous to workers and the public said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) in a statement today.
MassCOSH stands in full support of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a longtime leader of Boston’s construction unions, who has stated that non-essential construction taking place within city boundaries will remain paused until further notice for the good of these workers and the communities they live in.
“The safety and health of construction workers and all residents of Boston is my first priority, and I am not willing to put that at risk as the virus spreads throughout our communities,” said Mayor Walsh. “Large gatherings, such as those at construction sites, have been proven to escalate the spread of the virus, and Boston must do everything in its power to flatten the curve and stop the spread of coronavirus.”
MassCOSH believes that it is almost impossible, in dense urban settings, to ensure that all workers at construction sites can follow the State’s “Covid-19 Guidelines and Procedures for all Construction Sites and Workers at all Public Works” issued by the Governor. Without being able to take at least these steps, the health and safety of construction workers cannot be guaranteed.
“We support Mayor Walsh’s decision to take every step necessary to keep our communities safe,” said Brian Doherty, General Agent for the Building Trades Unions. This is a worldwide pandemic and our public health community has made clear that social distancing is the only way to combat this virus. We support Mayor Walsh’s decision to take action and to put the health of workers and the public first. During this period away from job sites, we are working with our unions and with our contractor partners to create new COVID-19 specific safety protocols and procedures that will ensure the safest possible work sites, only once a return to work is authorized. We greatly appreciate the Mayor’s leadership and focus on safety first, both for workers and for our communities. We are confident that by working together as a community we will get through this difficult time.”
Furthermore, construction is the most dangerous industry for Bay State workers. In 2019, there were 21 construction worker deaths, accounting for 36% of the 69 Massachusetts workers fatally injured on the job. Governor Baker’s plan to create a “safety stand down” day to refresh workers’ understanding of workplace health and safety protocols is insufficient to prevent injury and death on the job were construction to resume. It is also nearly impossible to implement given that all workers are required to distance themselves from others by a minimum of six feet to prevent infection.
The highly dense cities of Somerville and Cambridge have also stated that construction projects within their boundaries will remain closed, citing their inability to prevent coronavirus exposure on the job. MassCOSH unequivocally agrees that construction worksites should remain closed until health officials state it is safe to reopen them.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced federal OSHA agents to inspect private sector workplaces only after there has been a fatality, severe injury or other high hazard situations. While they are taking complaints and providing compliance assistance, enforcement action is limited, leaving workers with little protection should their employers fail to provide adequate personal protections or follow appropriate safety precautions.
However, thanks to the new public sector OSHA law that went into effect in February 2019, the State Department of Labor Standards is taking complaints and will take action should state construction sites and other public sector workplaces fail to meet OSHA standards and state guidelines.
“We are hearing reports from workers on public construction sites that the guidelines the State set out to protect its workers from Covid-19 are not being met,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, MassCOSH Executive Director. “If these simple steps, which may not even be adequate to ensure worker safety, cannot be implemented at public worksites, how can we be sure they are being implemented by the private sector? The best course of action is to stop all non-essential work and ensure workers are being compensated for hours they would have been on the job.”
Physical Distancing at Grocery Stores: Do your part
Grocery workers need your additional help and support. They are nervous about becoming infected and scared that they will bring it home to their families. Grocery stores remain open, and remain a lifeline for your constituents, helping to feed their families as they continue to quarantine. While supermarket management has instituted a number of safety precautions such as plexiglass at the cash registers and signage instructing shoppers to maintain social distancing, a numbers of shoppers continue to ignore these warnings, getting very close to our workers as they are trying to safely perform their jobs.
All of us need to do what we can to keep supermarket employees healthy. Stores need to remain fully staffed and operative.
Thank you so much for helping us get this very important message out to shoppers. Together, we can keep as many people safe and healthy as possible.
Check below for ways you can help protect your fellow customers and grocery store employees.
Read the letter below from Community Labor United about how you can help stop two legislative proposals at the State House which would give massive tax breaks to wealthy corporations instead of helping working people:
During this time of COVID-19, we need our legislators to show bold leadership and dedicate essential funds to our communities, working families and front-line workers who need it the most. We know that many of you — as well as many members of the legislature — are working tirelessly to make sure this happens.
At the same time, there are two bills still under consideration that would give massive tax breaks to wealthy corporations — and we have the opportunity to speak out against them. As we’ve seen after other crises, corporations and the right-wing take advantage of times like these to lobby for advantages like subsidies, tax breaks and privatization. But we know that corporate tax cuts are not what we need to help people struggling with the health and economic impacts of this virus.
We can fight corporate greed and prioritize public health and the public good. Two bills currently in the Joint Committee on Revenue Senator Tarr’s S. 1775 and Representative Poirier’s H.2607, would extend the “Single-Tax Factor” or SSF tax break. At a time when Massachusetts needs to fund emergency pandemic needs and replace lost revenue, a corporate tax break that could cost $67 million annually would be disastrous.
Supporters of these bills say that this will create more jobs, but we know that they are wrong. In fact, Fidelity Investments, which already benefits from SSF for the mutual fund industry, has thousands fewer Massachusetts employees today than when it first got the SSF break in 1996. For more information on the Single Sales Factor tax break, click here.
We need our legislators to know that Massachusetts residents do not support this measure to line the pocket of wealthy corporations as our working families are suffering.
Take two minutes to email members of the Joint Committee on Revenue and urge them not to advance Senator Tarr’s S. 1775 or Representative Poirier’s H.2607 out of committee.
Community Labor United
Mass Nurses Send Letter to Governor Baker calling for stronger PPE protections for frontline health workers
Massachusetts Nurses Association has sent a letter to Governor Baker opposing the new state PPE Guidance and calling for stronger protection and support for frontline healthcare workers to combat COVID-19. The MNA is advocating for a consistent approach to COVID-19 statewide within healthcare facilities that upholds the highest personal protective equipment safety standards.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the Front Line for Firefighters
(as of March 30)
Click here to read an op-ed by Rich MacKinnon, President of the 12,000 strong Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be Counted: Fill out your Census today
Have you filled out the 2020 census? If not, visit https://my2020census.gov/ or call 844-330-2020 (English) or 844-468-2020 (Spanish)!
The Census is an important tool used to determine representation in government and funding for communities. The more accurate the count, the better. When completing the Census, be sure to include ALL people living in your home, including children. Questions about the Census? Learn more about the process here.
Make sure you’re counted. Fill out your census here.
Special Elections Update: New Dates
New dates have been set for the two house and two senate special elections. The special election for the 3rd Bristol House seat as well as the 37th Middlesex House seat will be held on June 2. The special election for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate seat as well as the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire Senate seat will be held on May 19. Stay tuned in the coming weeks with more information and volunteer opportunities in support of our endorsed candidates.
As your advocates, it is critical that we have the most up-to-date information and news on the inner workings at the State House, as well as in city and town halls across Massachusetts. An important tool that we use is MASSterlist, the State House News Service’s daily newsletter. As a member of the AFL-CIO, we know you have deep interest in public policy and politics on Beacon Hill. The Massachusetts legislature’s policies and decisions directly affect the social and economic justice agenda that we stand for, and it’s critical to know about the news that affects you. This is why a free subscription to MASSterList is invaluable. Each morning’s edition offers a succinct yet wide-ranging selection of the day’s top articles and reports on virtually anything of political consequence within our Commonwealth. These articles are found across the spectrum of Massachusetts media and in readers inboxes at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. You can read today’s edition of MASSterList here.