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Priority should be funding front-line workers, not fast-tracking anti-worker judge

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Photo by Michael Reynolds/Getty Images)
Priority should be funding front-line workers, not fast-tracking anti-worker judge
By Pete Levine ·
Priority should be funding front-line workers, not fast-tracking anti-worker judge
OCSEA President Chris Mabe, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

On a press call last week, Chris Mabe, an AFSCME vice president and president of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11, shared harrowing stories of OCSEA members serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mabe was joined by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who both called on the Senate to prioritize funding the front-line workers who’ve been saving this country since the pandemic began, rather than ramming through anti-worker Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, if you were a public worker, it was like stepping into a war zone,” recalled Mabe. “The response to this health crisis was chaotic at best and life-threatening at worst. PPE was either inadequate or not available at all. And testing was a disaster. Ohio tested three prisons, then quit, despite having the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the country.”

Mabe and his wife, a corrections officer at Loraine Correctional Institution, contracted COVID-19. So did his son, daughter and mother-in-law. His son and mother-in-law were both hospitalized.

“My wife and other OCSEA members have literally put their lives on the line for the safety and well-being for our community and this state,” said Mabe. “And the ones standing up for them wasn’t their employer and it wasn’t the federal government – it was our union.”

It was through the power of their union that OCSEA members, like many AFSCME members across the country, were able to fight for the PPE and other protections they needed so they could continue serving their communities.

“That’s why strong unions and union protections are so important right now,” said Mabe. “It is literally a matter of life and death for our members. We can’t risk losing these rights at a time when we need them more than ever.”

As the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a confirmation hearing this week for Coney Barrett, her record, which AFSCME President Lee Saunders characterized as “one of clear hostility to our union’s core values,” threatens to undermine the power and protections that unions provide.

President Donald Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell “have walked away from the negotiating table and refused to extend (unemployment) benefits for the half-a-million Ohioans out of work, refused to help people pay the rent and the bills, and refused to get more money to our schools and small businesses,” Sen. Brown noted. “Their answer is to tell Ohioans ‘you’re on your own’ while they move heaven and earth to put another justice on the Supreme Court that will always side with corporations over workers.”

Sen. Warren explained how the Coney Barrett nomination threatens much more than the rights of workers alone.

“If Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is rammed through, she will bring her anti-worker outlook to the highest court for generations to come,” Warren said.

She added that Coney Barrett would overturn the Affordable Care Act “and devastate health care for workers, especially the millions who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic along with their health insurance.”

Rather than speed through Coney Barrett’s nomination while the election is already underway, the Supreme Court seat that fell vacant when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died should be filled by the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential contest – which is what most voters want.

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