Watson Coleman Announces Bill to Require Hazard Pay for Frontline Workers

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Washington, April 28, 2020 | comments

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) announced the Essential Pay for Essential Workers Act, legislation that would pay workers providing essential services an additional $15 per hour in compensation, on top of their regular pay. Acknowledging the higher risk of infection for all workers required to keep grocery stores, sanitation services, postal operations and other critical facilities running, the bill broadly defines essential work based on the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) guidelines for critical infrastructure.

“Two things are happening to the people who are working to keep our pantries full, ambulances on the streets, and boxes delivered: they’re putting their lives and their families’ lives at risk with little protection and even less compensation, and they are often already the individuals with the least financial security,” said Watson Coleman. “This bill is about recognizing something we’ve always known but have never admitted ­­– that we can’t function without these workers. They should be paid in a way that acknowledges that, and they should be compensated for the risk they’re forced to take.”

The Essential Pay for Essential Workers Act will mean that a worker in a covered industry previously paid at $10 per hour would receive $25 per hour during the coronavirus outbreak. The workers provide services in:

  • Healthcare
  • Food and agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Transportation
  • Public works
  • Communication and information technology
  • Critical manufacturing
  • Hazardous materials
  • Shelter facilities and services
  • Law enforcement
  • Hygiene products

Current cosponsors include Reps. Andre Carson (IN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Eliot Engel (NY-16). Text of the bill is forthcoming. Watson Coleman previously she sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging a broader definition and stronger protections for essential workers in further coronavirus relief packages, and another signed by more than 150 members of Congress urging protections for essential federal workers.

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