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Building Service Workers Plead for Help Amidst Layoffs And Deaths

May 8, 2020

By Joe Maniscalco

New York, NY – Essential building service workers left out of previous economic recovery packages that sent untold billions of dollars to corporations are hoping against hope that this time around, there will be something in it for them. 

32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg.

32BJ SEIU [Service Employees International Union] has already lost as many a 100 members up and down the east coast to COVID-19. Now, they are facing mass layoffs as well. 

Marcus Johnson, a 55-year-old porter at Boston College in Massachusetts, told reporters this week that he feels like a “prime target” for coronavirus. 

“I’m fearful for my life when I come to work,” he said. “If I’m an essential worker — give me essential pay and protection I need.”

According to Johnson, 20,000 of his union brothers and sisters in Massachusetts have been laid off during the pandemic. 

32BJ has sent one-hundred-thousand messages to Congress demanding adequate Personal Protection Equipment [PPE], essential pay and layoff protections for frontline workers in any new economic recovery package. 

But the seemingly all-powerful Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell has already indicated that he and his fellow GOPers are done passing any more stimulus packages following the ones that shoveled piles of cash to corporations and gave one-time $1200 checks and juiced up unemployment benefits to most everyone else. 

“A lot of my co-workers have been laid off,” Manhattan porter and married father of three Hipolito Andon told reporters. “If I’m laid off I need to keep my salary and healthcare. We cannot struggle and be left behind.”

While 32BJ’s focus remains on lobbying the federal government to “make sure this bailout package doesn’t leave [workers] behind,” President Kyle Bragg did not rule out more direct action. 

“As far as mass demonstrations and strikes, we are ready and prepared to partner with all workers who are seeking justice, equity and safety in this moment,” Bragg told LaborPress. “We’re trying to continue to build our ability to push back and fight back in ways that respect the moment that we’re in.”

Indeed, fast food workers and other frontline workers continue to successfully hold “car caravans” and other rallies that manage to adhere to social distancing directives during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Congress Member Nydia Velazquez insisted that the next stimulus package “will not be the only stimulus package.” 

“This is a matter of protecting our families,” she said. “We need to look to ways to keep these people on the payroll.”

The Brooklyn representative also invoked medical projections that predict the COVID-19 coronavirus will spike once again later this fall. 

“We don’t know where this is going to take us,” Velazquez said. 

May 8, 2020

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