Warren wants paid sick leave, ‘premium pay’ for essential workers in next coronavirus bill

Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pushing for universal paid sick leave and “premium pay” for essential workers as part of Congress’s fourth coronavirus aid bill.

Warren and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Monday unveiled an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights,” which outlined nearly a dozen of their policy priorities as lawmakers begin to consider next legislative steps as the number of coronavirus cases within the United States continues to grow.

“We have a responsibility to make sure essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to, and the compensation they deserve. The next relief package must put all workers front and center — but it must also specifically include the policies in our Essential Workers Bill of Rights,” Warren said in a statement.

Khanna added that the coronavirus pandemic “needs to open our eyes to the value of workers who are often invisible, and we need to give them the pay and benefits they deserve.”

Though many Americans are now working remotely, and millions more have been laid off, employees at “essential” businesses, including hospital or grocery stores, are still going into work.

Warren and Khanna are pushing for universal paid sick leave, which would include essential workers, to be in the next coronavirus package. The second bill passed by Congress expanded paid sick leave for some companies with fewer than 500 employees. It also allowed businesses with fewer than 50 employees to request an exemption.

“Congress must pass Senator Patty Murray’s [D-Wash.] PAID Leave Act, which provides 14 days of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, so essential workers can care for themselves, family members, or dependents, without being required to submit unnecessary paperwork. And we must ensure that President Trump is not allowed to arbitrarily exclude workers to roll back these protections,” Warren and Khanna write.

They’re also pushing for employers to provide personal protective equipment at no cost to employees and “robust premium pay” for essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pay, according to the proposal from the two progressive lawmakers, should “provide meaningful compensation for essential work, be higher for the lowest-wage workers, and not count towards workers’ eligibility for any means-tested programs. It must be retroactive to the start date of the pandemic, and not used to lower the regular rate of pay for any employee.”

The proposed guidelines would also provide protections for whistleblowers who report unsafe working conditions, no-cost health care coverage for essential workers, and access to child care for essential workers.

The goal posts for a fourth coronavirus package come after Congress has passed three bills so far, including a $2.2 trillion stimulus package. Leadership is currently stalemated over an “interim” request for more small business funding for a program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, that was started under the third bill.

But lawmakers in both parties, and in both chambers, acknowledge that they are likely to need a fourth piece of legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has eyed having a bill ready to move by the end of the month.

“It is my hope that we will craft this legislation and bring it to the floor later this month,” Pelosi said in a letter to House colleagues earlier this month.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Nancy Pelosi Patty Murray Ro Khanna

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