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Editorial & Opinion

Elected officials must take action in this current time of crisis



Workers built America. We keep this nation running every day and we will rebuild America’s prosperity. Now, we must stand up and demand action from our government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives and the Rhode Island economy. No one understands that better than Rhode Island’s working people. For too many of us still working on the front lines of this pandemic, simply going to work could mean getting sick or even losing our lives. Hundreds of thousands of workers in Rhode Island are now unemployed as this public health crisis has ripped across our state and our country.

It is crucial that our elected leaders at every level of government act to save our state, save our economy and save workers’ lives. That’s why the Rhode Island AFL-CIO is joining a national day of action with unions in all 50 states on June 3rd. Labor’s “Workers First Caravan” launches at 3:00 PM at the Providence Post Office on Corliss Street. We demand action from our elected leaders before this crisis pushes our nation and our state past the point of no return.

We need to keep all workers safe and healthy on the job by demanding government agencies charged with keeping us safe at work do their job and function properly. Front-line workers, like the clerks at local supermarkets, health care workers in hospitals and congregate care settings, UPS drivers, postal workers, and state workers at places like the Rhode Island Veterans Home are heroically putting their health at risk every single day. We will stand up and say with conviction that workers are essential – not expendable.

In many ways, Rhode Island’s elected officials are setting a positive example for the rest of the country. Governor Gina Raimondo’s steady leadership has helped calm nerves even while she has taken bold steps to keep public education going through distance learning. RIDOH Director Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott has repeatedly reassured the public and DLT Director Scott Jensen has led his agency to perform at the highest level for our unemployed workers. And behind them stand thousands of state workers, doing their duty daily to keep us healthy and safe.

However, while Rhode Island is going through this health crisis, too many people, especially those that work in our local hospitality and restaurant industry, are losing their health insurance. We cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy workforce. That means ensuring the federal government provides 100% federal payment support to extend COBRA. We need to expand affordable health care – not eliminate it.

Can we please ask a favor?

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With the highest number of unemployed Americans since the Great Depression, we need to provide good jobs for all workers. This crisis is a wake-up call to make long overdue investments in a key pillar of the economy: our infrastructure. Rhode Island Building Trades men and women answered the call of duty, working around the clock adding additional health care beds at facilities like the Rhode Island Convention Center. There is no better time than now to reinvest in the vital infrastructure we need to protect our country and boost the creation of good jobs. Now more than ever, we need shovel ready projects, which means investing in new school construction projects in communities like Newport, Cranston, Warwick, Cumberland, and others.

We demand that our elected leaders—at every level of government—step up during this time of unprecedented challenge. They must do the right thing for Rhode Island’s workers and our families. We demand the government do everything in its power to ensure sustainable supply lines of personal protective equipment for front line workers. This is a moment that demands clear action and common purpose. Any meaningful relief and recovery will require that our government prioritize workers and their families.

Workers built America. We keep this nation running every day and we will rebuild America’s prosperity. Now, we must stand up and demand action from our government.

On Wednesday, June 3, working people from Rhode Island will join thousands of people from across the country in a Workers First Caravan, an all-out action of national solidarity calling for implementation of America’s Five Economic Essentials and passage of the HEROES Act. 

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is sponsoring a caravan rally to call attention to the importance of the US Postal Service and America’s 5 Economic Essentials:

  • Keep front-line workers safe and secure.
  • Keep workers employed and protect earned pension checks.
  • Keep state and local governments, our public schools and the U.S. Postal Service solvent and working.
  • Keep America healthy—protect and expand health insurance for all workers.
  • Keep America competitive—hire people to build infrastructure.

The caravan will start at the West River Street/Corliss Street intersection and proceed around the postal center, with stops at the Providence Teacher Union Hall and the Stop & Shop on West River Street.

Additional caravans from across all 50 states and Puerto Rico will also be participating in solidarity actions. 

In Washington, DC, a 2,500 car caravan will make its way through the city to make sure Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows his inaction is unacceptable, and that the labor movement will mobilize to fight for our health, our economy and our country. 

WHO: Working People from across Rhode Island

WHEN: Wednesday, June 3 at 3:00 PM

WHERE: West River Street, Corliss Street intersection, Providence, Rhode Island

George Nee is the President and Patrick Crowley is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, representing 80,000 working women and men across Rhode Island.