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Coronavirus: Ducey, Legislature must adopt 10 measures to keep working families safe

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Coronavirus: Ducey, Legislature must adopt 10 measures to keep working families safe

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Monday morning, labor unions, community organizations and elected leaders who represent working families across Arizona, came together to urge Gov. Doug Ducey and all of Arizona's elected leaders to use their emergency powers to enact 10 measures that will enhance public safety and prevent economic disaster for Arizona's working families.

As the coronavirus continues to spread and "social distancing" is encouraged across the United States, Arizona is beginning to experience dramatic economic effects — particularly in the hospitality industry. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League have suspended their seasons. As of March 12, Sky Harbor Airport had already seen a 17 percent decrease in TSA traffic. Tens of thousands of individual bookings at the Phoenix Convention Center have been cancelled.

Across the broader workforce, school closings are putting massive pressure on working families, and workers with few paid sick days face losing a paycheck, or even a job, if they fail to show up for work.

President Donald Trump and Ducey have both declared states of emergency, but we need to act more boldly and more swiftly to protect working families across the state.

Immediate Emergency Measures

Access to Testing – We must move as quickly as possible to make sure that all Arizonans have easy access to free coronavirus testing.

Moratoriums – We must immediately halt all foreclosures, evictions, utilities shut-offs, and terminations of health insurance coverage due to a lack of payment by affected working families.

Workplace Protections

Containment at Work – Workers must receive paid training on best practices to prevent the spread of coronavirus at work. They must also receive additional paid breaks as necessary to allow for regular hand-washing and other necessary sanitary measures.

Paid Sick Leave – Congress's recent proposal to expand paid sick days to two weeks and paid medical and family leave, if passed, is a significant step in the right direction. But by limiting that expansion to government employers and employers with fewer than 500 employees, that leaves millions of Arizonans without paid sick leave, and it lets large corporate employers abdicate responsibility for the welfare of their own employees.

No Adverse Discipline for Taking Time Off from Work - Employers must also prohibited from using a worker's absence from work due to their own illness, a family illness, or a school closing as a reason for disciplinary action.

Fair Layoffs and Worker Retention – In the event businesses need to lay off workers, workers must be laid off by seniority and not by any other criterion that would lend itself to favoritism and/or discrimination. Permanent layoffs — or firings in the context of a workforce reduction — must be done only with just cause. And, in the event of a transfer of ownership due to financial difficulty, workers must be retained by the company that assumes ownership of the enterprise.

Maintenance of Health Care Coverage ­– Employers must be prohibited from using a reduction of work hours below a minimum threshold to discontinue payment of a worker's health insurance premiums.

Emergency Relief

Unemployment Benefits must be expanded and the application process must be streamlined to allow rapid processing in the event of job loss or hours reduction.

Emergency Housing, Utility, and Medical Vouchers – Beyond a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, utilities shutoffs, and termination of medical coverage, assistance must be provided to make sure housing, utilities, and medical bills do not create crushing levels of debt for families unable to pay due to illness, layoffs, or hours reductions at work.

Food Security – Funding for food banks must be increased and the number of delivery sites for food assistance must be expanded. Work requirements for access to food stamps must be relaxed, and, in the event of school closures, meal programs must be devised to replace free breakfast and lunch programs for public school students.

It is critical for as many people as possible to heed public health recommendations and take action to limit and slow the spread of coronavirus. In order to ensure that happens we must together take action to limit the economic impact of coronavirus. We all have a role to play in this crisis. We urge public officials and corporate leaders to show leadership by taking these 10 bold steps to protect public health, provide economic security, and do right by workers and the community at large.

The groups and leaders calling for these 10 bold steps include AFSCME Locals 2384 & 2960, Arizona Education Association, CASE (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy), CHISPA Arizona, Communications Workers of America Local 7019, Healthcare Rising Arizona, LUCHA (Living United for Change In Arizona), Mi Familia Vota, Our Voice Our Vote Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Progress Now Arizona, UNITE HERE Local 11, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99.

Brendan Walsh is the executive director of CASE (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy). Athena Salzman is a member of the Arizona House of Representatives for District 26, which covers Tempe and Mesa.

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