Supporting Unemployed Workers

IN THIS EDITION:

  • Maine AFL-CIO Calls for Immediate Relief for Laid-Off Workers 
  • USW 366 Set to Produce 1 million Masks & 500,000 Face Shields
  • Building Trades Achieve Progress on COVID-19 Issues with Governor
  • Tell Congress: Help Government Employees on the Front Lines

Maine AFL-CIO Calls for Immediate Relief for Laid-Off Workers

Ahead of last Wednesday’s hearing of the Legislature’s Labor and Housing committee on unemployment, the Maine AFL-CIO called on the Maine Department of Labor to provide immediate relief to laid-off workers and others who are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and forced to go without income for weeks while they wait for the unemployment system to process their claims. In partnership with the group Maine Equal Justice, we released a memo with eight recommendations to provide immediate relief to Mainers struggling to get their unemployment benefits and to reform and modernize our unemployment system so it can meet the needs of the 21st century workforce. 

The current unemployment system was created in the 1930s when most Americans worked full-time and few women and older Americans were in the workforce. Since then, the country has shifted dramatically from a manufacturing-based economy to a service sector economy with increasing numbers of workers forced to cobble together part-time, temporary and gig work. These are often low wage jobs with irregular work schedules that don’t provide enough hours to qualify for unemployment insurance. As a result, just one in four unemployed Maine workers (26 percent) received UI in 2019. That's why the federal government had to hastily create the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for workers who don't qualify for regular UI, but unfortunately its implementation has been slow and confusing for claimants in desperate need of financial assistance.

USW 366 Set to Produce 1 million Masks & 500,000 Face Shields

USW 366 members making PPE at American Roots.


Back on March 23rd, the American Roots union apparel company in Westbrook was forced to lay off 80 percent of its workers, who are members of United Steelworkers Local 366. Then five days later, the company hired everyone back and began making personal protective equipment for frontline workers. According to company owner Ben Waxman, the workers eagerly came back to make masks and face shields. 

“They said they will not be denied in making this country better,” said Waxman. “In the first week we put out 10,000 face shields, working day and night to get them to people on the front lines. Our workers made sacrifices that I will never forget.”

Orders are now exploding and the company is hiring 75 more workers to keep up with the demand. It has scaled up to produce 1 million reusable masks and 500,000 face shields in the next seven months. Check out this awesome video of American Roots workers. And to order washable masks or face shields please email [email protected] or call 207-854-4098.

Building Trades Make Progress on COVID-19 Safety Issues

The Maine State Buiding & Construction Trades Council (MSBCTC) has successfully urged Governor Janet Mills to take a number of steps to address the safety and security of the construction industry during the COVID-19 crisis. Several weeks ago, MSBCTC President John Napolitano (UA Local 716) sent Governor Mills a list of policy solutions to ensure working men and women are safe on the job. 

As construction has been deemed a critical service and continues to be active during this public health emergency, President Napolitano made it clear to the Governor that "we are essential, not expendable" and that additional tools are needed to keep all workers safe. After conversations between the MSBCTC and administration officials, Governor Mills announced that her administration will develop new Construction Safety Protocols as well as improve staffing on theSafetyWorks! line so that workers can report safety-related violations. 

Tell Congress: Help Government Employees on the Front Lines

AFGE members working for the federal government on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic desperately need an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves, gowns and hand sanitizer. This will help stop the spread of COVID-19 in VA hospitals, at airport security checkpoints, inside federal prisons, and other places where AFGE members interact with the public. 

We are continuing to call on the president to use the Defense Protection Act to ensure that sufficient quantities of PPE are manufactured, sold at a fair price and delivered to all those whose work exposes them to possible infection. In the meantime, please sign this petition, telling Congress to restore labor-management relations with government workers and to take measures to ensure their safety during this crisis.