A call to action
The North Dakota AFL-CIO, the federation of labor unions in North Dakota, urges the North Dakota Legislature to immediately take swift and decisive action to help working families through these difficult times.
COVID-19 has and will take a major toll on our working families, union and non-union alike. We know that these proposed measures will have a positive impact on the public health and economic wellbeing of North Dakota’s working families.
These are the actions that will most help working families through this crisis:
Paid Family and Medical Leave – Working people should not lose their income due to being sick or taking care of a loved one who is sick. Lawmakers should immediately draft legislation that would provide for at least eight weeks of Paid Family Medical Leave.
Unemployment Insurance – Lawmakers should immediately make emergency changes to Unemployment Insurance, as per North Dakota Building Trades recommendations, such as eliminating the waiting week, extending and expanding benefits, and exempt benefits from taxes.
Food Security – Lawmakers should increase funding and access for emergency food assistance and the agencies that provide these services. We need to ensure that everyone, especially children and the elderly, are getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy during this crisis.
Hazard Pay – Workers on the front lines of this pandemic, such as healthcare workers, delivery drivers, service/retail workers, and personal care assistants are putting themselves in harms way to make sure we get the care and provisions we need, and should be compensated for their sacrifices, including increased pay and access to childcare.
Workplace Safety – Ensure that maximum precautions are being taken through OSHA to ensure front line workers are safe and healthy. We need to care for them if we expect them to care for the rest of us. Lawmakers need to ensure they are getting the personal protective equipment and testing they need right now, such as N95 masks.
Moratorium on Evictions and Disconnections – While work and paychecks for many North Dakota workers are severely disrupted, we need to make sure that critical services to our families stay on, like power, water and phone service. Lawmakers should direct state agencies to halt evictions and utility disconnections immediately, and restore vital services to those who are living without them for the good of public health.
Now is the time for leadership on behalf of the working people you represent, not after this crisis, as some lawmakers have already suggested. Any assistance to business must include provisions to ensure that their employees are being taken care of during this pandemic. Proposals to eliminate property taxes should be immediately halted and investments in public education, infrastructure and health should be made a top priority in the days ahead. If there was ever a rainy day in which to mobilize the legacy fund for the public good, this would be the day.