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At COVID-19 Town Hall, Biden Praises Public Service Workers and Their Unions

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By AFSCME Staff ·

Former Vice President Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States, praised public service workers and their unions Wednesday for their response to the COVID-19 crisis.

At a virtual town hall on unemployment and issues facing working families during the COVID-19 crisis, Biden said the pandemic, which has sickened nearly 428,000 people in our country and killed almost 14,700, is giving the public renewed appreciation for public service workers, in particular first responders, nurses, custodians and janitors, and anybody on the front lines of fighting to contain the outbreak.

“They are busting their neck,” Biden said of such workers and the unions they belong to. “They’re the ones who built this country. We have new appreciation for what’s being done by so many good people.”

Moderated by Yvanna Cancela, a Nevada state senator, the event featured questions from public service workers and union members, including Judy Geil, a member of AFSCME.

AFSCME endorsed Biden for president on March 23.

Geil, who provides clerical support for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and whose job involves making sure that workers and employers have fair access to the state’s unemployment system, is a member of AFSCME Local 2540 (Council 13). She asked Biden what could be done to strengthen the public services that workers like her provide and how their voice might be amplified.

Biden said he supports the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide, including allowing public service workers to join together and have a voice on the job to improve both working conditions and the communities in which they live and work.

He also said the federal government must do more to support state and local governments, whose lack of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 crisis threatens vital public services. AFSCME is calling for exactly this as part of an additional aid package.

“We can’t let public sector workers risk losing pay,” Biden said. “We need to boost support for state and local governments and make sure that through their unions public sector workers have a voice.”

Biden called on the federal government to pick up all COBRA costs, referring to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which provides for continuing group health insurance after a job loss. He alluded to how much pain could have been avoided since the outbreak began if “swift and decisive action” had been taken earlier.

Cancela said Americans across the country are eager to find a real leader who will guide us out of this crisis, “leadership that is not being provided by Donald Trump.”

She praised Biden for having “the empathy, vision and boldness to be the leader that we need.”

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