LETTER TO GOVERNOR CHARLIE BAKER, SENATE PRESIDENT KAREN SPILKA & HOUSE SPEAKER ROBERT DELEO

Baker

The following letter was sent by the MA COVID-19 Response Alliance to Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka & House Speaker DeLeo.

May 1, 2020

Dear Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka & House Speaker Robert DeLeo,

As you well know, Massachusetts has become a COVID-19 “hotspot,” with profound impacts of this crisis including a toll on our health, jobs, and safety statewide. We write to you today as Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance (MCRA), a new coalition of community and labor groups representing some of the communities and families hardest-hit by this crisis. We have come together to advocate for a people-centered response to pandemic relief and recovery.

First, we would like to thank you for the actions you have taken to date to protect people, extend aid to the unemployed, and pass protections to help keep people in their homes at this difficult time. We know you have been working tirelessly in response to this virus and the impact it is having on the Commonwealth. We are especially encouraged by the recent passage of an eviction moratorium and the creation of unemployment insurance extensions, both adopted with support and input from tenant rights groups and labor unions. 

Despite these achievements, we know you will agree that there is far more to be done in Massachusetts to ensure effective and equitable relief, as well as a recovery plan that will help everyone in our state. We are witnessing the devastating and still-unfolding impact of COVID-19, especially on communities of color, immigrant communities and workers in the hospitality, healthcare, transit and other industries. Some of the most troubling 

  • We are still in the middle of a weeks-long virus surge, with more than 62,000 confirmed cases and more than 3560 deaths.1
    • Recent reporting indicates that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth may in fact be far higher.2
  • There are dramatic disparities in COVID-19 rates across communities
    • Per capita, rates among Latinx residents are more than three times that of White residents, while per capita cases for Black residents are more than two-and-a-half times that of White residents.3
    • Environmental Justice communities – those with high percentages of people of color and low income people, and with high rates of pollution-linked respiratory diseases, like asthma – are being hit hardest by the virus.4
    • Particular jobs and industries also pose disproportionate risk, and we have seen a severe impact on healthcare workers, grocery workers, transit workers, and those in other essential jobs.
  • To date, a staggering 893,600 people, about 24% of Massachusetts workers have filed unemployment claims.5
    • Some economists estimate that up to 30% of workers could be left jobless by this pandemic, a level of unemployment not seen even during the Great Depression.6
    • The economic impact is unevenly distributed, with leisure and hospitality and healthcare industries hard hit.7

We are writing to you today because the toll of the virus has exposed deep, systemic needs and inequities in Massachusetts as elsewhere. To stem the suffering in our communities, we are committed to working for immediate and long-term responses to the crisis that 

  • Prioritize working families
  • Advance racial justice
  • Deepen democracy
  • Invest in the public good
  • Put people and communities before big corporations 

 


 

1 State House News Service Coronavirus Tracker, data as of April 30, 4pm. https://www.statehousenews.com/public/tracker/1/shns-coronavirus-tracker
2 Massachusetts looking into whether state’s coronavirus death toll is undercounted, Gov. Charlie Baker says, MassLive.com, April 29,2020, https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/04/massachusetts-looking-into-whether-states-coronavirus-death-toll-is-undercounted-gov-charlie-baker-says.html
3 COVID-19 Rate for Latinx and Black Residents Three Times That of White Residents, According to New Analysis, Massachusetts Public Health Association, April 22, 2020, https://mapublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Press-Release-Data-Disparities-4.22.20-Final.pdf
4  Zoe Greenberg, Massachusetts communities with dirty air are coronavirus hotspots, Boston Globe, April 29, 2020 https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/29/metro/pollution-might-affect-states-covid-19-hotspots-harvard-study-shows/
5 Larry Edelman, Jobless claims in Mass. top 893,000, or 24% of the labor force, amid coronavirus crisis, Boston Globe, April 30,2020 https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/30/business/more-americans-file-unemployment/
6 Andrew Soergel,  “Fed Official Warns of 30% Unemployment: An unemployment rate that high would be far worse than what the country weathered during the Great Recession,” US News & World Report, March 23, 2020 https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2020-03-23/fed-official-unemployment-could-hit-30-as-coronavirus-slams-economy
7 Massachusetts Unemployment and Job Estimates for March, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, April 17,2020 https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-unemployment-and-job-estimates-for-march-0

Essential workers from multiple industries spoke out for a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 4, 2020

Contact on behalf of Community Labor United and Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance:

Vishakha Mathur, vishakha@617mediagroup.com or 617-485-7709 

Essential workers from multiple industries spoke out for  a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic 

 

BOSTON — On International Workers’ Day also known as May Day, Boston-area essential workers, advocacy leaders, and educators held a livestream event to discuss life on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis and the State’s obligations to ensure safety and equity.

The front-line workers were grateful for the public’s appreciation of their efforts during this crisis but said they continue to need adequate protection and leave policies to keep them healthy.

“The union is working hard to make sure we have enough PPE but we also need a clear commitment from CEOs to make sure that the people who are working for them have enough PPE,” said Joan Edmond, a certified nursing assistant and a member of SEIU 1199.

Heloisa Maria Galvão, executive director, Brazilian Women’s Group spoke about her and her organizations’ experience working with immigrant families and workers. 

“What we are really looking to do during this time — because it is very tragic — is to organize people. We want to let them know that they do have a voice and that they should exercise that” she said.

Brazilian Women’s Group is working to provide mutual aid and support to marginalized communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speakers highlighted the dire need for a comprehensive recovery plan that not only addresses our communities’ immediate needs but also addresses our long-term needs. 

“It is heartbreaking to see that folks are called essential workers but workers are only given less than a day’s notice that they no longer will have work. That has been very difficult for families. It has compounded the impact of this pandemic,” said Roxana Rivera, head of SEIU 32BJ

“That’s why we are not only pushing with those major institutions that they need to be able to keep people on the payroll, give people more notice. We are taking that fight to the government as the next round of bailout talks happen,” she said. 

Boston Teachers Union organizer, Natalia Cuadra Saez, highlighted the importance of continuing to fight for schools that our students deserve, even as we weather this pandemic. 

“This crisis that we are living through, it makes the campaigns that we are working on, like Inclusion Done Right, even that much more urgent, that much more relevant because we know that eventually, we will be returning to schools in one way or another,” said Cuadra Saez. “The gaps that existed before will only be wider and the needs that existed before will be greater.” 

Expounding on their recent win on a strong eviction and foreclosures moratorium, Steve Meachem of City/Life Vida Urbana said that they are seeing a change in perspective due to this crisis. 

“There have been significant changes in the entire framing of our culture on what it means to not be able to pay rent, for instance,” said Meachem. “Only a few months ago, it was presumed in our culture that it is the fault of the individual. Now, all of a sudden, there is a common understanding that it is not the individual’s fault. It is something systemic.”

Keeping in mind the struggles faced by frontline workers and the need for a long-term recovery plan, a new alliance, Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance, premiered its new set of policy demands. The demands are rooted in a “people-centered approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We believe that partnership between community and labor is just so critical to the progress we have made so far, but also for the power we are going to need to continue to win big demands and the systemic change that is needed,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director, Community Labor United, during the event.  

“Our immediate and long term response needs to address working families, end racial injustice, deepens democracy, and put people and communities before the big corporations.”

The groups also launched their website https://macovidresponse.com/.

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The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance (MCRA) believes that the impact of the virus on low-wage workers, communities of color, and the most vulnerable people in our Commonwealth has exposed deep, systemic inequities in Massachusetts, which already faces the sixth-worst income inequality in the country. MCRA is calling on Beacon Hill to adopt a “people-centered” approach, to grant immediate relief, as well as a just long-term recovery that supports our communities and invests in their future. The MCRA is a rapidly growing umbrella group that includes a growing list of organizations and other coalitions such as Community Labor United, New England United for Justice, Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center, City Life Vida Urbana, Massachusetts Voter Table, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Alternatives for Community & Environment, the Green Justice Coalition, Right to the City Alliance Boston, and more.