May 13, 2020

Tim Kauffman

[email protected]

HEROES Act Prioritizes Workers on Front Lines of Coronavirus Pandemic, Largest Federal Union Says

Categories: Congress, Coronavirus

House bill includes AFGE priorities such as premium pay, more protective equipment, expanded testing, telework guarantee, presumption of workplace illness

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees strongly supports passage of House legislation released Tuesday that would provide federal workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic with many of the enhanced protections and benefits the union has been championing.

The legislation, named the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, includes many of the priorities AFGE has been pushing for Congress to adopt, most recently in dual letters sent Tuesday to members of the House and Senate.

“We are glad to see that this legislation emphasizes the needs of front-line workers, who continue to put themselves and their families in harms’ way every day they report to work,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.

“Provisions included in the House bill would provide much-needed help and support to nurses and other health-care providers at veterans’ hospitals, to correctional officers and staff in our federal prisons, to federal meat and poultry inspectors at processing plants, and all the workers whose lives have been endangered or otherwise disrupted by this deadly contagion,” Kelley said.

AFGE priorities included in the legislation include:

  • Premium pay: The bill would provide essential federal employees who are required to report to their worksites during the pandemic with an additional $13 an hour in premium pay, capped at $10,000 for those making under $200,000 and $5,000 for those making over $200,000. 
  • Presumption of worksite illness: Employees who must interact with the public, who have been quarantined, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the performance of their duties will be given a presumption that they contracted the virus at work. This will help expedite approval of workers’ compensation claims.
  • Telework: Requires agency leaders to allow telework for all eligible federal employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Agencies would be required to expand telework by creating incentives to increase its use and disincentives to reducing it.
  • Universal testing: The bill allocates $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, which will ensure that every American can access free coronavirus treatment.
  • Additional Personal Protective Equipment: The bill amplifies production and distribution of personal protective equipment and other supplies and requires the administration to seek input from labor organizations and other stakeholders.
  • Paid Leave clarifications: The bill ensures that federal employees will not be excluded from the paid leave provisions previously passed by Congress and clarifies that Transportation Security Officers and health-care workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs are entitled to the additional two weeks of paid sick leave.
  • OSHA emergency standard: The bill requires the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a temporary standard to protect front-line employees from exposure to COVID-19.

“On behalf of the 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees AFGE represents, I thank House Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the House leadership for their efforts to provide much-needed relief and support to workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kelley said. “Our union looks forward to working with both the House and Senate to pass these legislative priorities without delay.”

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