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Pennsylvania Labor Leaders Demand Greater Protections For Essential Workers

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the biennial Pennsylvania AFL-CIO convention on Mon., April 6. The event was held on Facebook Live and Zoom due to the coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced more than 10 million out of work nationwide and upended the lives of millions more. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, a labor federation, opened its biennial convention Monday with calls for solidarity in a time of crisis and greater protections for workers on the front lines.

Richard Bloomingdale is president of the state federation. He outlined a broad vision of safe working conditions for all workers, especially those now deemed essential.

“Access to healthcare and testing is workplace safety,” he said. “Paid sick leave is a matter of workplace safety and health. Access to personal protective equipment is a workers’ rights issue.”

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO represents about 700,000 people, according to the federation’s secretary-treasurer.

Guest speaker and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the governor and his team understand the strain created by the response to the coronavirus.

“The administration is working tirelessly to protect the public health of the commonwealth,” she said. And “to get people back working after we get through these very challenging times.”

Levine urged people to call the Department of Health if they see an employer using improper safety procedures or businesses that are open and shouldn’t be.

State and federal officials must support working people, said Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO.

“We’re still showing up every day and stepping up to do more. We’re rising to the moment despite the danger, and rising up in solidarity,” he said. “But workers can’t do it alone.”

Trumka said the pandemic has pulled back the curtain on the importance of collective action and a rising tide of people hungry for union values and membership.

He admonished President Donald Trump for bragging about television ratings in a time of national crisis, referring to remarks Trump made about the popularity of his daily coronavirus briefings. He asked members to imagine what they could do with a labor-friendly president in the White House.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will address the convention on Tuesday.