COVID-19: Letter to the City of Houston
The City of Houston must take immediate action to provide relief to Houston’s working families. The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency without precedent. It requires an unprecedented response from all levels of government to ensure the economic fallout of this crisis does not fall on the backs of working people.
Add your name and call on Mayor Turner and Houston City Council to stand up for Houston's workers!
As you and other government leaders take extraordinary measures to protect public health during the COVID-19 outbreak, we call on you to take immediate action to provide relief to Houston’s working families. The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency without precedent. It requires an unprecedented response from all levels of government to ensure the economic fallout of this crisis does not fall on the backs of working people.
In a survey of our 95 affiliated unions representing 60,000 workers across the Gulf Coast, we found that in sector after sector workers are already experiencing layoffs, furloughs, and cutbacks of hours as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, those who have not yet experienced job losses have been impacted as a result of school closures and increasingly limited access to health care services, and many are already struggling to afford basic necessities, such as food and rent.
All levels of government must take swift action to protect front-line workers, keep workers in their jobs while staying home, create a real safety net for the unemployed, and prohibit companies from using government assistance to lay off workers, cut benefits, or enrich themselves.
Harris County has already acted to suspend evictions, the state of Texas has ended the waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits and removed restrictions on WIC food assistance, and the federal government has passed legislation that will expand unemployment benefits and paid sick leave to some. These are all important first steps, but they leave many workers behind, and what will be enforced during this crisis remains unclear.
The City of Houston must step in immediately to fill the gaps in existing legislation and ensure that all workers in our city have the protections and support they need during this emergency.
We ask you to immediately take the following steps:
- Mandate that employers with employees who regularly interact with the public during the course of their job duties provide them with the training, personal protective equipment, and social distancing required for workers to minimize potential infection; workers who are not provided with this should be able to refuse to work without retaliation until it is possible for work to resume safely
- Implement an immediate two-week emergency paid pandemic leave policy for workers not included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed by President Trump on March 18
- State affirmatively that any agreement entered into between the City and a private company for financial relief will include as terms and conditions of the agreement that the business will maintain payroll and benefits during the crisis and affirmatively provide paid leave, living wages, and other community benefits
- Give residents and businesses struggling to pay rent an additional two months to do so before landlords can begin eviction proceedings and issue notice to the Houston Police Department that they are to comply with the ban on eviction proceedings issued by the Texas Supreme Court
- Ensure utilities do not shut off services to Houston customers with delinquent
accounts and call on Governor Abbott to direct the Texas Public Utility Commission to prohibit utility companies from shutting off services throughout the pandemic
- Call on the federal government to use their authority under the Defense Production Act to increase production of gloves, masks, sanitizer and other critical safety supplies to ensure all workers in Houston are protected at work
We urge you to act now to use municipalities’ broad police powers under Texas and federal law to protect the physical and economic health of Houston’s working families.