Major unions push for paid leave in COVID-19 aid bill

Bonnie Cash

The country’s top five labor union groups are calling on Congress to include expanded paid leave benefits in a new COVID-19 relief bill.

“Never before have paid leave protections been more necessary,” the coalition of unions wrote in a letter to congressional leaders obtained by The Hill.

The coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, National Education Association and the SEIU, represents more than 20 million workers.

Specifically, the unions and labor groups are pushing for provisions in the HEROES Act, which House Democrats passed in May, to broaden earlier paid leave provisions they say excluded 106 million workers.

“For businesses and schools to reopen in-person safely, we need to have confidence that people infected with the virus can stay home or else we’re all at risk of infection – and this means closing the gaps that cut millions of workers out of emergency paid sick and family leave protections,” the unions wrote in the letter, organized by the Paid Leave for All campaign.

“Meaningful paid leave that covers everyone is one of our best chances to stop the spread, allow us to safely reopen, and get the economy back on track,” they added.

They also criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his insistence on including liability protections for businesses and organizations, which they say endanger workers.

Paid leave is just one of a slew of issues House Democrats are negotiating with the White House, and has taken a back seat to questions around extending enhanced unemployment benefits and an evictions moratorium, both of which have already expired.

McConnell, who has not been directly involved in the negotiations, told CNBC Thursday that a deal is not far off.

“Exactly when that deal comes together I can’t tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future,” he said.

Updated at 11:55 a.m.

Tags AFL-CIO American Federation of Teachers Communications Workers of America Coronavirus coronavirus relief COVID-19 Mitch McConnell National Education Association paid leave SEIU

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