Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Protecting Worker Safety and Economic Security During the COVID-19 Reopening
Press Release

RELEASE: Protecting Worker Safety and Economic Security During the COVID-19 Reopening

Washington, D.C. — As public health measures are being loosened even amid continued spread of the coronavirus, a new column from the Center for American Progress argues that the Trump administration and its allies are pursuing an approach that is forcing workers to choose between their safety and their economic security. The column makes the case that this strategy is likely to lead to greater transmission of the virus and a weaker recovery—with the pain falling most heavily on low-income workers and communities of color, who have already faced disproportionate harm from the crisis to date.

In “Protecting Worker Safety and Economic Security During the COVID-19 Reopening,” Jacob Leibenluft and Ben Olinsky make the case for an alternative approach that would simultaneously protect workers from the virus and from the economic fallout of the crisis. Their recommendations include:

  • Enacting public health-focused approaches that focus on ensuring the virus is under control. This would include a coordinated government response that includes ramped-up testing and contact tracing.
  • Establishing more robust worker safety standards. These would include putting in place and enforcing stronger rules for workplace safety, empowering workers to ensure these standards are met, rejecting efforts to shield employers from liability, increasing access to personal protective equipment, and strengthening workers’ compensation.
  • Maintaining robust unemployment benefits as an important backstop to workers’ safety. States should not be permitted to rescind benefits for workers who refuse to work under unsafe conditions, and more robust unemployment benefits from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act should be continued to ensure that jobless workers receive sufficient aid.
  • Workers must have paid leave, paid sick time, child care, and adequate pay. Having access to adequate leave, child care, wages, and health care will allow workers who are ill to stay home, rather than risk their and their co-workers’ health to return to work.

“The Trump administration’s failures to contain the spread of COVID-19 risk putting too many workers in the position of choosing between their health and their livelihoods,” said Jacob Leibenluft, senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the column. “A strong recovery hinges on enacting strong workplace protections, while supporting both workers on the job and those who are out of work through no fault of their own. Reopening the economy in a way that forces workers to enter a dangerous workplace or else risk their income will worsen the public health crisis and make it harder to build out of this recession.”

Read: “Protecting Worker Safety and Economic Security During the COVID-19 Reopening” by Jacob Leibenluft and Ben Olinsky

For more information on this topic or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at [email protected].

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.

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