A. Ensure that all workers and residents are covered by free or affordable health care. The health of DC residents and workers should be made a top priority. People should not have to choose between getting emergency care for their sickness (whether Covid-19 or any other illness) and accruing massive debt or staying home with symptoms and risking their lives. Ideally, this should be ensured through the expansion of Medicare for all District residents, which offers a higher standard of care than Medicaid. If this cannot be immediately offered, then every District resident should be offered either Medicaid, or an ACA-linked plan with expanded subsidies to ensure affordability throughout the pandemic. District residents who currently receive employer-based health care should be assured of its continuation, regardless of current working status. To this end, the Paycheck Protection Program should be expanded to include incentives for employers to continue those benefits, without employee contributions (since there are no, or reduced paychecks for such deductions) for the duration of the pandemic.
B. Ensure that workers who remain employed through the crisis are provided with proper PPE and training by their employers. Cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and surface sanitizer should be readily available at all restaurants operating during the crisis. Training on how to properly use PPE and sanitizer should be given to every employee who is working during the crisis and training should be made available in a workers first language. Employees should not be required to pay for their own PPE.
C. Expand access to paid sick leave benefits that ensure that all DC workers are eligible for 2 weeks (14 days) of paid sick leave that are available for them on the first day of their employment instead of needing to be accrued over time. Additionally an oversight committee should be created that ensures all restaurants disclose employees’ right to paid sick leave in all major languages (English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Amharic). This committee would also implement a system for employees to report restaurants that do not comply with paid sick leave regulations. To ensure parity in paid sick leave for workers commuting from bordering counties in Maryland and Virginia, officials in the surrounding counties and DC must work together to implement region-wide comprehensive paid sick leave. There should be additional paid time off for healthy workers who have been exposed to a known Covid-19 infection risk to quarantine safely at home for a period of 14 days, without consuming their sick leave (and this should be explicitly covered by the Paycheck Protection Program).
D. Protect workers who are being put at risk by their employers. Workers should not have to be obligated to come back to work if they feel the proper protective policies have not been put in place. A worker refusing to come back to work due to health risks should not face retaliation, the risk of losing their job in the future or the risk of losing their unemployment benefits. Employers who receive loans from the Paycheck Protection Program should give workers the option to (1) not return to work if they feel unsafe (2) return to work on a part-time basis so they can continue to receive unemployment benefits (3) pay all workers (both tipped and non-tipped) a hazard rate pay of at least time a half at the full minimum wage rate, while encouraging restaurants to pool tips with front of house and back of house staff.
E. Provide mandatory updated Health & Safety standards for workplaces with oversight measures enforced by OSHA, OAG and OHR. OSHA must take immediate steps for full enforcement of these standards (which should be requirements and not merely “recommendations” as those recently put forward in the meat-packing industry), immediately respond to worker complaints with proper inspections, and ensure that workers can report violations without the fear of retaliation.
F. The District should take affirmative steps to fully enforce and monitor all employers’ response to the need to protect their workers. This should include, at a minimum, mandating that employers ensure all sick employees, and those exposed to them, are provided support to get tested for Covid-19, and to communicate to all employees when they have been exposed to sick co-workers and/or clientele known to have been infected. The District should also take steps to prevent and/or override any attempt by the federal government to indemnify employers who risk the health and lives of their workers. Finally, the District should monitor the compliance of employers with the provisions of the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent abuse, and to ensure that the funds are used for the benefit of workers. There should be strict penalties for any employers who willfully endanger the health and lives of their staff, such as those who require workers to abandon PPEs in favor of profits.