It's not just hospital workers, police officers and first responders who are succumbing to the coronavirus. At least 58 service workers in the Service Employees International Union's Local 32BJ have died due to COVID-19 across the country – with 45 of those deaths taking place in New York City, the New York Post reports.
Of the 45 city deaths, 19 were from the union’s essential division, which includes doormen, supers and porters. Many of the workers have been provided with little to no personal protective equipment such as masks or gloves, according to the union.
“Essential workers – janitors, security officers, airport and residential workers – put their health and well-being on the line every day to keep New York City safe, secure and healthy,” said Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ. “While essential workers are keeping others safe, they and those close to them are getting sick and dying.”
The union has proposed three measures for the next congressional bailout for its workers, including guaranteed personal protective equipment, “essential pay” supported by the government to increase workers’ wages to 1.5 times their regular rates, and layoff protection for contracted workers. It was not immediately clear how much such measures would cost, though the union has gained support from Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).
The announcement of the deaths of the service workers coincides with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to extend the statewide lockdown from April 29 until at least May 15. He has also ordered essential service employees, such as doormen, to wear face coverings (at the employer's expense) and for all New Yorkers to carry face coverings when they leave home and wear them whenever they cannot maintain safe social distancing. The covering must be worn on mass transit and by all drivers and passengers in for-hire vehicles.
Congress passed a massive, $2 trillion emergency economic stimulus package late last month, which included individual checks to Americans and bailouts businesses, hospitals and local governments. But a $350 billion small-business relief program included in the package to prevent layoffs during the coronavirus crisis ran out of money after two weeks. Democrats and Republicans have reached an impasse over details in the next stimulus package.
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