Nearly 30,000 working people came together for two tele-town halls—one in English and one in Spanish—to hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Veronica Escobar and talked about their daily struggles they face as they continue to show up for work. These home care workers, doctors, nurses, social workers, security officers, education support staff, delivery drivers and more concluded their testimonials with the same statement: “I am an essential worker.”
Bridget Hughes, a longtime leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union from Kansas City, moderated the English town hall and engaged with Pelosi and Warren. Hughes works two fast-food jobs, including at McDonald’s, to support her three children.
“This is about us, the people who are working to keep this country fed, keep this country clean, keep this country safe and healthy,” said Hughs. “It is time for us to have a say about what America needs to do to protect us. A lot of people who used to look down on us for having a service industry job all of a sudden understand that this country doesn’t function unless we go to work.”
Both Warren and Pelosi recognized the importance of essential workers in finding a solution to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the need to support them now and in the future.
“We need essential workers, unions, and worker organizations at the table, designing safety standards and designing responses to this crisis,” Warren said. “And that’s every place from individual worksites all the way up to the White House Task Force on Coronavirus. I see it this way: you see the needs and problems firsthand, and you should be helping develop the solutions.”
“We don’t agonize, we organize -- and you know what -- we unionize,” said Pelosi. “That is the strength of America’s workforce and therefore the backbone of our democracy.”
During the Spanish call, Local 73 and Chicago hospital social worker Hilario “Lalo” Lechuga told Representative Escobar, “It’s very stressful for everyone at the hospital…ensuring PPE for everyone would protect us and we would have the assurance that we are doing our job, which is essential, without risk.”
During both calls, the workers also outlined their demands for next federal stimulus bill, which include protecting the health and safety of all workers; ensuring job, wage and economic security for all workers; investing in public services and investing in an economy and democracy that work for all.