Food Workers are Not Disposable, Tell Congress: #ProtectAllWorkers

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FRONTLINE FOOD WORKERS ARE NOT DISPOSABLE

Congress Must Act to Protect ALL Workers in the Next Federal Stimulus Bill

To our Congressional Representatives and Senators;

Food workers from farm workers to processing, warehouse, and retail are still on the job providing essential services even as COVID-19 spreads. Yet, employers are still refusing to provide workers with basic protections, putting workers' lives at risk every day.

Food workers, who already earn poverty wages, are not getting compensated adequately for the risks they and their families are being exposed to and the Trump administration wants to LOWER farmworker wages.

Millions of undocumented workers, a large number in the food economy, don’t qualify for unemployment insurance or federal stimulus benefits LEAVING no income if they are laid off or compelled to keep working in dangerous conditions.

We urge Congress to incorporate these policy recommendations in future stimulus and response packages as soon as possible, in order to mitigate negative impacts of the COVID-19 on food workers and all workers providing essential services.

Food workers continuing to provide essential services should be entitled to receive Premium Pay at a minimum of time and a half.

  • Congress must mandate premium pay for all essential workers who are risking exposure to the coronavirus at work, at a minimum rate of time and a half. This includes food processing workers, farm workers, food warehouse and retail workers, and all essential workers. Premium pay must not be voluntary.

  • Congress should mandate any stimulus aid offered to employers come with agreement that employers will provide premium pay for essential workers at risk from exposure to COViD-19 on the job.

  • Congress must act to ensure the Trump Administration and the The Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not move to reduce the wages of farm workers employed under the H-2A visa program, which will depress wages for agricultural workers.

OSHA must immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to require that employers offer adequate and enforceable protections from COVID-19 for all essential workers.

  • Congress must pass legislation compelling OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard that provides clear and enforceable protections to protect food workers and all essential workers from COVID-19.  

  • OSHA must take immediate steps for full enforcement of these standards, immediately respond to worker complaints with proper inspections, and ensure that workers can report violations without the fear of retaliation.

  • Upon publication of the emergency standard, the Department of Labor should commence a process to promulgate a permanent standard protecting workers from infectious disease.

  • Federal and state agencies, including those that oversee H-2A workers, must mandate health & safety protocols specific to COVID-19 for agricultural operations and farm labor camps, farmworker housing.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) must suspend the issuance of waivers allowing companies to lift current line speed limits in poultry, pork, and beef processing industries. If USDA refuses, Congress must act immediately to block any USDA funds from being used to implement such waivers. Given the high risk that food processing workers face during this crisis, Congress should go further to transfer administration of line speed standards to OSHA.

Workers must have access to healthcare, unemployment insurance, and cash grants regardless of immigration status.  

  • Congress must expand access to unemployment insurance to all workers, regardless of immigration status. At a minimum, unemployment must be extended to workers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). However, the lack of an assigned ITIN or Social Security numbers should not be a barrier to accessing critical federal and state benefits.

  • Congress must act to ensure that accessing federally-funded SNAP benefits is not a barrier to receiving lawful permanent residency by first removing SNAP from any Public Charge determination.

  • Congress must act to suspend all immigration enforcement raids and audits in workplaces and communities and compel Immigration agencies to release all immigration detainees, all of whom are at highest risk.