Indiana Workers Respond to COVID-19

Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic demands workers in the United States and their allies build a movement of organized labor and community organizations demanding programs to protect the health and well being of all workers, their families and communities. This moment demands unity in action to defeat the Trump agenda and meet the health and well being challenges facing us.,

As Trujillo and Parra reported in their May 14, 2020 article What the pandemic is teaching us, “We learned what Dr. Williams J. Barber II has been preaching: ‘This virus is teaching us that from now on, living wages, guaranteed health care for all, unemployment and labor rights are not far-left issues but issues of right versus wrong and life versus death.’” 

Trujillo and Parra call for:

  • Direct Monetary Transfer
    • The coronavirus pandemic clearly exposes the unequal distribution of wealth in our nation. The recent direct monetary transfer of $1,200 to individuals will result in a deeper discussion on the redistribution of income and wealth in our country. We have learned that Social Security and Medicare are much-needed safety nets for many and should be expanded to everyone for their lifetime. We have learned that there needs to be a transfer of wealth from the corporate sector to the working class for social needs.
  • Emphasize More Spending on Health Care
  • Temporary Debt Freeze
  • Rent and Mortgage Caps
  • Housing the Homeless
  • Disaster Relief Funds for Undocumented Migrants
  • Labor Unions
  • Universal Basic Income

John Bachtell, former Chair of the Communist Party USA, wrote in People’s World: “The COVID-19 pandemic is sparking something akin to a social epiphany…. The pandemic has laid bare the structural inequalities of global capitalism and its inability to meet basic human needs.”

In the May 17, 2020 New York Times, Alexander Burns described the United States in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic: “More than 36 million Americans are suddenly unemployed. Congress has allocated $2.2 trillion in aid, with more likely to be on the way as a fight looms over government debt. Millions more people are losing their health insurance and struggling to take care of their children and aging relatives. And nearly 90,000 are dead in a continuing public health catastrophe.” 

The statistics highlight a human reality in which anguished voices of hundreds of millions of United States workers call out, in unison with workers across the globe, for effective management of this pandemic and help for front line, gig, unemployed, elderly, disabled, and all working families and communities.

National Nurses United demonstration demanding protections for essential workers. California Nurses Association. May 15, 2020..

With masses of people whose income disappeared overnight, most of whom had little or no savings because of low wages, struggling to keep their homes and feed their families, Bess Levin in Vanity Fair reports that Republican “Senators Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, Rick Scott, and Tim Scott are sick with fear that the [pandemic relief ed.] legislation will make unemployment so enticing that low-wage workers will decide to lay themselves off.”

The federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour is an unsustainable indignity to working people.  

Levin writes: “Claiming the relief package will encourage people to stay out of the workforce, Graham told reporters that the bill “pays you more not to work than if you were working,” noting that it would provide the equivalent of $24.07 an hour in South Carolina versus the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. “If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families’ tables…” 

While the Republicans strategize on how best to maintain wage slavery, Burns suggests Democrats “are racing to assemble a new governing agenda that meets the extraordinary times — and they agree it must be far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.”

He continues: “Democratic leaders say that if they hold power next January, they must be prepared to move to pump trillions more into the economy; enact infrastructure and climate legislation far larger than they previously envisioned; pass a raft of aggressive worker-protection laws; expand government-backed health insurance and create enormous new investments in public-health jobs, health care facilities and child care programs.”

“Discussions are also underway, some of them involving Republicans, about policies that would ban stock buybacks and compel big corporations to share more of their profits with workers.”

People’s World: Contesting for the post-COVID-19 world

The AFL-CIO Is calling for passing H.R. 6800, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act. “This act includes an emergency workplace infectious disease standard; gives aid for state and local governments, public schools, the U.S. Postal Service, and pension funding relief; keeps workers on payrolls to avoid mass layoffs; extends unemployment insurance; provides more direct payments to working people; extends health care coverage; provides housing and food benefits; and much more.” Action information can be found at the AFL-CIO “Tell Your Senator: Support H.R. 6800, the HEROES Act“ page.

The American Federation of Teachers and UNITE HERE call for paid sick leave and a comprehensive health, safety and economic plan to fight coronavirus.

National Nurses United “condemned the [California] state Senate’s Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement committee for failing to pass SB 893 (Caballero), a bill that would have made nurses and other direct-care hospital workers automatically presumed eligible for workers compensation for infectious and respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, as well as musculoskeletal injuries, which nurses experience at extremely high rates.”

The Communist Party of Indiana CPUSA supports the various union and Democratic Party initiatives where they concretely address workers issues.  We believe that implementing the Green New Deal can also be considered as a helpful reform consistent with the struggles to address COVID-19..

To implement the programs required for working families to survive and thrive an organized movement is required that is larger than organized labor or any worker’s party.  An electoral victory for Biden is required to implement more effective help for workers living through the pandemic.

For Biden to win in November 2020, and to create the political space to address worker demands, a movement must be quickly built that includes organized labor and community groups allied in common demands and doing get-out-the-vote work, while building a movement to maintain pressure on behalf of worker issues post election and ensure passage, funding, and implementation of the kinds of programs mentioned above.

Please join the Communist Party of Indiana ( CPUSA and help build this movement.

Eric Brooks, Chair., Communist Party of Indiana CPUSA