In mid-May, House Democrats released a new $3 trillion stimulus bill, designed to provide additional relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 6800, called the HEROES Act, includes money for personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazardous duty pay for front-line workers, but is short on any new worker rights measures.
The 1,815-page measure passed a House vote on May 15 along party lines, but is not expected to make it through the Senate.
While AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was happy the bill passed, some Democrats felt the plan did not go far enough to support workers long-term.
The bill includes grants to pay “essential workers,” which includes grocery workers, meat plant workers, warehouse workers, airline workers and restaurant meal deliverers, among others – providing up to $13 more an hour, or a maximum of $10,000 on top of their current pay.
The added pay would be retroactive from Jan. 27 through 60 days after the end of the “national emergency” from the coronavirus pandemic. Employers can use the grants only to top off workers’ pay, not replace it. They also cannot displace essential workers or cut their hours.
The bill also includes $1 trillion, available in various ways, for states, local governments and tribal governments, through Sept. 30, 2023.
Included within the HEROES Act is at least $1.3 billion to purchase PPE and provides the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with $100 million to hire more inspectors, who must concentrate on probing the nation’s pork, chicken and beef processing plants.
The legislation also partially addresses the financially troubled multi-employer pension plans.
It creates a hybrid system, where those plans would be frozen and workers and beneficiaries are gradually transferred to so-called “composite plans,” with potential benefit freezes, but not cuts.