Union applauds multi-employer insurance relief in new COVID-related bill

Stephon Johnson | 3/4/2021, midnight
Union leaders have come forward to praise a bill from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration that would help their constituents.

Union leaders have come forward to praise a bill from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration that would help their constituents.

According to the Biden administration, the new COVID relief package that the House passed last weekend would fund vaccinations, provide relief via $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, extend unemployment payments through August and includes multi-employer pension relief. In a joint statement sent to the AmNews, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, along with the co-chairs of the AFL-CIO Retirement Security Working Group, UFCW International President Marc Perrone and SMART General President Joseph Sellers, said that Biden’s rescue plan is needed in this current time.

“Reckless Wall Street behavior, industry deregulation and employers’ deviant use of corporate bankruptcy have threatened the financial security of millions who’ve worked hard only to have that promise robbed from them,” the statement read. “The provisions included in this package are important steps that will help eligible retirement funds protect the retirement benefits we earned by sacrificing wage increases.”

“This system not only provides retirement income to the 10.4 million hardworking Americans who participate in the multiemployer plans, alleviating the need to rely on government safety-net programs that already are stretched thin, but also generates more than $158 billion annually in federal tax revenue that benefits communities across the country,” the statement continued.

Biden’s bill also sets aside $130 billion to reopen schools and colleges and $50 billion for small business assistance.

In a statement, President Biden said that the initial discussions for a relief package before he took office showed progress, but came up short.

“While Congress’s bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment,” said Biden. “It fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis. We are in a race against time and absent additional government assistance, the economic and public health crises could worsen in the months ahead; schools will not be able to safely reopen; and vaccinations will remain far too slow.”

However, the bill had some detractors. Many of those detractors came from the conservative side in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the bill’s division along party lines is proof of its invalidity.

“After Republicans led five bipartisan bills last year, Democrats have chosen the polar opposite,” stated McConnell. “When Senate Republicans went to the White House to suggest cooperation, President Biden’s team said no thanks. The White House Chief of Staff admits this liberal wish-list is ‘the most progressive domestic legislation in a generation.’ So much for common sense and common ground.”

“The House’s partisan vote reflects a deliberately partisan process and a missed opportunity to meet Americans’ needs,” said McConnell.

McConnell’s blocked certain relief bills from making it to the Senate floor. Last June, he rejected a relief bill that included stimulus checks and “economic impact payments” of up to $6,000 per household. Households with a maximum of three dependents would have received $1,200 and  immigrants would’ve been eligible for stimulus payments if they had taxpayer identification numbers.

But none of that matters now according to Trumka, Shuler, Sellers, Perrone and others. They just want to clear the next hurdle on the way to the Oval Office desk.

“The Senate should act quickly to send this relief to President Biden’s desk so we can keep the promise of a secure retirement for those who have earned and deserve, nothing less,” their statement read.