Democratic Presidential Candidate & Former Vice President Joe Biden: “AFSCME Workers Are Holding This Country Together Right Now”
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden joined American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders during a Tele-Town Hall that was held on Friday (June 12th) to emphasize the importance of protecting essential public services during the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
They also discussed how to address racial injustice, spotlighted most recently by the killing of George Floyd and others.
Also joining the call were AFSCME Members from across the country, whose jobs and service expose them directly to these crises.
They each asked Biden how, as President, he would lead the Nation in addressing them.
Saunders kicked off the call by spotlighting the urgent issues facing our country: “These last few months ‘have been as painful and challenging as any I can remember’ – for our Union and for the entire Nation. ‘We are grappling with a deadly pandemic that has killed more than (100,000) people.’ The economy ‘has cratered,’ leaving tens of millions ‘out of work and fearful about the future.’ And in recent weeks, with the murder of George Floyd and others, ‘we are confronting the systemic racial injustices that have plagued our country for its entire history.’”
Saunders applauded AFSCME’s brave Members for serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 Pandemic, yet warned that unless Congress provides $1 trillion in aid to states, cities and town, a grim scenario awaits the country: dangerous cuts to education, transportation, sanitation and every public service that sustains our communities.
Saunders also addressed the problem of systemic, institutional racism that has brutalized so many African Americans and led to disproportionate Coronavirus hospitalization and fatality rates: “The ‘frustration and despair’ we’ve seen in American cities over the last two weeks is a ‘direct result of police violence against’ Black People. ‘It is anger about a rigged system that enriches people already standing on third base, while millions of People of Color can’t even buy a ticket to the game.’”
Biden echoed Saunders concerns and reinforced his commitment to Public Service Workers: “Twenty million people ‘are out of work right now.’ The ‘continuing crisis of violence and indignity African Americans face is the original sin of this country and has diminished our soul for so long.’ ‘We’re at a moral reckoning.’ ‘We must make this right.’”
Calling the challenge facing this country “unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Biden said that “AFSCME Workers are holding this country together right now.”
Keith Lowry, an Arizona Paramedic, explained that he and his Co-Workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, doing everything possible to protect their communities - but still lack Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
And many Essential Workers like EMTs are getting laid off.
Lowry asked Biden how he would help “maintain safe staffing levels and get fire department and EMS Workers what they need” to combat the coronavirus, especially if there’s a second wave of infections.
Biden first thanked Lowry and other AFSCME Members, acknowledging the fear of so many Front Line Workers that they will bring the virus home to their families.
He then listed several key pro-Worker priorities: Ensuring Unions have a voice in reopening the economy; Providing free COVID-19 testing; Making sure there is PPE for every Essential Worker; Providing Paid Sick Leave for all Working People; and Instituting stronger Federal Worker Protections and expanding them to include all Public Service Workers.
“But ‘most of all,’” Biden said, “we ‘need to fund local communities.’ ‘We need a trillion dollars to make sure every state, county and city can pay for their Essential Workers.’”
To Continue Reading This Labor News Story & Listen To The Tele-Town Hall Event With Vice President Biden And AFSCME President Lee Saunders, Go To: www.afscme.org/blog/biden-afscme-workers-are-holding-this-country-together-right-now