USW Health Care Workers Council convenes online to discuss coronavirus health and safety challenges, future of industry

Members of the USW Health Care Workers Council convened online last Thursday to discuss issues surrounding the coronavirus, which continues to be a challenge for health care workers.

USW Vice President Fred Redmond, who oversees the health care sector, spoke to the group about the unprecedented crisis, focusing on hope and commitment.

“We’re really dealing with uncharted waters,” said Redmond. “But we continue to represent our members every day.” 

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler also joined the conversation to talk about what the labor movement is doing to fight for front-line workers.

“It’s such a shame that we’re still talking about the lack of proper PPE for health care workers.”

Legislation such as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) was also a focus of the session. The bill was passed in the House earlier this year, with no movement expected in the Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The proposed HEROES Act includes about $1.13 trillion of emergency supplemental appropriations to federal agencies, as well as economic assistance to governments at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels. There would be about $485 billion in safety net spending, including the expansion of unemployment benefits, increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, increased funding utilities payments and job training for low-income individuals, and a 25% increase in aid to disabled veterans. 

Members and staff also talked about challenges and opportunities around contract bargaining in the wake of the pandemic, as well as health industry financial trends that may play out next year and beyond.

Regardless of what comes in 2021, Redmond reinforced where the union’s commitment lies -- on workers.

“We have to be ever so vigilant that our number one priority is the health and safety of our members,” said Redmond.

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