03.11.20

Baldwin, Democrats Push Labor Secretary to Advocate for Workers, Question DOL’s Absence from Task Force

As coronavirus continues to impact workers, Department of Labor still absent from the President’s Coronavirus Task Force

Baldwin, Democrats push Secretary of Labor Scalia for answers, urge him to advocate for workers

Senators: “We call on you – as the lead federal government official responsible for the protection and advocacy of workers – to ensure response efforts incorporate both the immediate and long-term needs of workers.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with 29 Democratic Senators are demanding that Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia ensure the federal government’s response to coronavirus address the immediate and long-term needs of workers. The Democrats expressed concern regarding the Department of Labor’s (DOL) continued absence or exclusion from the President’s Coronavirus Task Force. Senator Baldwin has been working to protect workers and has introduced emergency paid sick leave legislation that would immediately provide 14 days paid sick leave in light of the coronavirus crisis.

As the coronavirus spreads to communities across the country, many workers on the frontlines of the crisis and beyond face serious impacts. Health care workers have already raised concerns about the lack of adequate training and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as provider shortages. Transportation workers worry about contracting and spreading the disease. For many workers who cannot telework, staying home due to the impacts of coronavirus on themselves or family means losing a paycheck.

“The seeming absence or exclusion of DOL from any aspect of the Administration’s efforts to address this crisis is alarming.  As workers across the country in all sectors of the economy face potential impacts of the disease, it is critically important the federal government is taking appropriate steps to address their needs in its response.  We call on you – as the lead federal government official responsible for the protection and advocacy of workers – to ensure response efforts incorporate both the immediate and long-term needs of workers,” wrote the senators.

In a letter to Secretary Scalia, the senators pressed him about DOL’s continued absence from the task force, asking if he had been invited by Vice President Pence or if he had requested to be a member.  The senators also asked who, if anyone, has advocated for the needs of workers in the federal government’s response to the virus. Considering the urgency of the crisis, the senators asked for a response no later than March 24.

In addition to Senators Baldwin and Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

Democrats in the Senate have already pushed for answers from the DOL on how they will respond to the needs of workers during the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, Senator Baldwin and 20 Democratic senators have introduced a bill that would require all employers to allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis.

The full text of the letter is available here.