ROC United Statement on House Passage of Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

March 16, 2019

NEW YORK On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed necessary, bipartisan emergency funding legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), aimed at containing the novel coronavirus outbreak that is battering the nation. The bill will provide an immediate two-week paid sick leave for workers who are not covered by a policy, including millions of restaurant workers, up to three months of family and medical leave, child care assistance, free testing, unemployment benefits, food assistance for children and families, and enhanced Medicaid funding to help state and local governments in this time of public health crisis.

However, the legislation exempts the nation’s largest employers or those companies with 500 or more workers from having to provide any paid sick leave at all. These large companies employ roughly 54 percent of all America’s workers. Additionally, the bill also allows the Department of Labor to grant hardship exemptions to businesses with lower than 50 employees,accounting for an additional 26 percent of the workforce. It is also of note that the legislation will only provide workers temporary paid sick days, and paid leave benefits to workers and child care assistance, which will end on December 31, 2020.   

Sekou Siby, executive director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, released the following statement: 

“On behalf of the restaurant workers that we serve and represent across the country, we thank the House for passing this groundbreaking emergency coronavirus economic stimulus package. Our members, along with numerous partners and allies on the ground, have fought for paid sick days, paid medical leave and child care assistance for years and so we are thankful that their enthusiastic commitment and hard work have come to some fruition. However, it is with shame for the leaders of this nation that we must keep fighting for the majority of workers that remain excluded from this protection.

“No hardworking restaurant workers should have to make the impossible choice between receiving a paycheck and staying home to prevent the possibility of spreading the coronavirus. In the event that any of these workers fall sick or experience the symptoms and have to stay at home, paid sick days, paid leave benefits and child care assistance must be available to ensure that they can still bring food to their table, feed and take care of their young children, pay their bills, and make ends meet for their families and loved ones.

“We cannot ignore that the legislation has fallen short by exempting large corporations from requiring them to give their workers up to 10 paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. Unfortunately, this means that 80 percent of hardworking people at places like Dine Brands (Applebee’s and IHOP), Bloomin’ (Outback Steakhouse), Brinker (Chili’s), Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, McDonald’s and other major corporations (such as Walmart) won’t be covered under this legislation and that they and their families will be more at risk from suffering the damaging impact of this public health crisis at hand.

“Also, the legislation only requires tipped workers be paid the minimum wage, which remains stuck at $7.25 in 21 states. As long as the industry continues to benefit from the $2.13 subminimum wage, tipped workers’ emergency compensation should be based on the annual average wage including tips.

“As the coronavirus continues to unfold, we strongly urge Congress not to use this pandemic as a political weapon by prioritizing corporate profits while we are in the midst of a public health emergency. The virus knows no boundaries; it doesn’t care whether you work for a large or small restaurant. 

“ROC United began as an emergency relief center for the victims of 9/11, and we are creating an emergency fund to assist restaurant workers affected by the coronavirus and left out by the Congressional relief package.

“We need committed leaders who will take real action and pass comprehensive and permanent legislation that will guarantee that all our working people are safe, secure and healthy. If it is not permanent, we will scramble again for the next pandemic. And if it is not comprehensive, excluding many workers in corporation-backed restaurant chains, we essentially put the well-being of our great nation in harm’s way.”