One of the largest and most politically active building trade unions in North America has issued a clarion call for U.S. Congressional action to support workers who have been impacted by COVID-19.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades represents construction workers in fifty U.S. states and in every Canadian province. The union has issued a four stage response platform, titled as the “IUPAT BOLD ACTION PLATFORM FOR WORKING FAMILIES” which the union says is essential to protecting the economy and working families, and which they hope to see reflected in any upcoming stimulus package.
In conjunction with the release of the response platform, IUPAT General President Ken Rigmaiden issued the following statement, calling on Congress to act.
“COVID-19’s impact is financially devastating for millions of working families in our industry and beyond who are now grappling with tremendous uncertainty about what their paychecks, health care, and future will hold. In just one week, we have already seen the economic impact to our industry through widespread and sudden layoffs in many areas of the country,” Rigmaiden said.
“The last time our nation faced a similar crisis, millions of workers were left with nothing. In the meantime, CEOs and Wall Street got billions of taxpayer dollars to cover their losses and pay their bonus checks. We must not let this historic pattern of workers being left behind repeat itself. All workers must be afforded basic human rights by their government in the face of this crisis—as opposed to just another bailout for the corporate elite.”
“Right now, large corporations are lining up with their hands out for federal aid, while workers are losing their jobs, their health insurance, and their economic security. Our membership works in every sector of the US economy from hospitality, retail, real estate, infrastructure, to the public sector. We will fight to ensure our members, and workers across this country, are not left behind by Congress. The IUPAT will be among the legions who will be calling for workers’ basic human rights to be put first. Together, if Congress takes bold action now to support working families, we can get through this crisis and ensure our health, financial and economic well-being.”
IUPAT BOLD ACTION PLATFORM FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Rigmaiden’s full plan to action is listed below:
First and foremost, there must be no bailouts for big corporations without a bailout for workers, the statement continued. Second, any corporate assistance issued should be engineered to reach the paychecks of workers, not just executives. Corporate assistance should be limited in scope, and should include provisions that protect the rights and economic interests of low- and middle- income workers.
Furthermore, working families need Congress to take these four Bold Actions now:
- Immediate cash infusion and extended medical leave
- Provide healthcare protections for both the insured and uninsured
- Bolster/secure retirement plans
- Invest in American infrastructure
Immediate Cash Infusion and Extended Medical Leave
Our membership works in every sector of the US economy. As workplaces are closing across the country due to COVID-19, working families are already suffering. The number one priority in this crisis is making sure people who are sick or need to be quarantined have whatever it takes to care for themselves. That means paid sick leave, and the IUPAT stands with all working people who need paid sick leave guarantees from the US government. However, the majority of our membership and workers in the construction industry are hourly wage earners.
Bills we have seen so far, such as H.R. 6074 The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Act, will have very little benefit for construction workers in this dire situation. Unlike some industries, construction and finishing trades workers don’t get paid leave—if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Congress must act accordingly and leave no construction workers behind.
While our members are increasingly laid off, whether temporarily or sustained, our workforce must have access to cash in order to pay bills, cover basic human needs and to provide for their families.
Any bill must also aid contractors in extending medical leave to employees so that they can weather this storm. Workers covered by collective bargaining agreements need to be included in any family, medical and paid sick leave proposals. There cannot be limits on the number of employees and days worked to include all workers in these critical measures.
Shore up health coverage for workers on multiemployer health plans and provide healthcare protections for both the insured and uninsured
With layoffs, jobsite shutdowns, long term unemployment and prolonged economic uncertainty on the horizon, we are calling on our representatives to provide relief to multiemployer health and welfare plans so that our members and their families can continue to receive health care with no break in coverage.
Now is not the time for millions of Americans to avoid medical care for fear of bankruptcy. Ensuring access to health care is essential to our nation’s ability to recover from this economic and public health emergency.
We must curb the spread of disease and ensure every American has health care.
Secure Retirement Programs
Our members have worked hard in our industries for decades, providing for our families and communities, the promise of retirement with dignity. With the volatility in the stock market and a projected loss in hours and contributions to our member’s retirement plans, we call on congress to act once and for all to help provide relief to our retirement plans.
This requires taking sweeping action to address financial woes in the economy as a whole and on the stock market. But we have learned a crucial lesson from the last economic crisis: trillion dollar bailouts for Wall Street, billionaires and corporations left working people in the cold and provided little relief to our union, our members and their private retirement system. This time around, working people must come first.
We are calling on elected leaders to invest directly in Multiemployer Pension plans like the IUPAT’s plan to ensure security for all worker’s futures.
Invest in American Infrastructure
The government must provide macroeconomic stimulus to uphold the economy as a whole. Any stimulus package should include a plan to quickly put America’s construction workers back to work once this pandemic is under control.
- In the short term, we need to be looking at emergency appropriations to support our weakened public health infrastructure, especially hospitals.
- In the medium and long term, recovery efforts should focus on creating jobs for millions of workers and strengthening our country’s essential infrastructure like roads, bridges, water systems and energy production.
Across the country, infrastructure is failing and costing lives and billions of dollars every year. We call on Congress to finally act in a bipartisan way to address the growing need for a comprehensive infrastructure plan to deal with this issue once and for all.
Visit www.IUPAT.org to learn more.