Union workers say coronavirus proves need for paid sick leave

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 say the coronavirus outbreak is exposing deep flaws in a low-wage economy. Colorado workers on the front line of the state’s economy say they need paid sick time and financial help to weather what’s both a public health and economic crisis.

“We’re hearing a lot of talk about a corporate bailout, there needs to be a people’s bail out,” said Ron Ruggiero, president of SEIU Local 105.

Ruggiero helped organize an online press conference with service workers feeling the impact of the coronavirus.

Aurora firefighter Jimmy Allen shared his observations about a lack of emergency supplies.

“Masks, gowns, plenty of albuterol treatments, oxygen treatments — the supplies [that] should just be endless are just down and out everywhere for supplies,” he said.

Jamie Simpson is a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and is worried about child care.

“Most recently, daycare and sitters have started to deny care for flight attendants’ children because we are at high risk of carrying the virus,” she said.

Simpson said if she feels sick and stays home proactively to self-quarantine, it’s unpaid leave unless she tests positive. If she works, she’s worried she might get stuck somewhere far from her Denver home.

“We might have to be quarantined for up to 14 to 30 days in any state or country that we fly into,” she said.

Denver janitor Yuliana Guerrero said she has noticed her company can’t provide enough disinfectant supplies for all of its employees.

“A lot of my coworkers don’t have adequate materials to combat the epidemic,” she said through a translator.

Douglas County teacher Kallie Leyba said she’s worried about the emotional toll the coronavirus is having on her students.

“Teachers and staff continue to be paid. Unfortunately, some of our students are facing insecurity because their parents may not be paid,” she said.

Karla Wagoner is a home care worker who now has to take her temperature before she enters a nursing home or the home of one of her elderly clients.

“The consumer is of course paranoid and concerned about having strangers in their home and taking care of their everyday needs,” she said.

All of the union members said the coronavirus proves the need for paid sick leave, especially when many live paycheck to paycheck.

“Half of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency,” said Ruggiero.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced intentions to send checks to working class Americans in the next two weeks. Congress is working on the details of a relief bill, which might mandate paid sick time for companies with fewer than 500 employees.

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