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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

The AFL-CIO warned Tuesday that workplaces were still far too dangerous to consider reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as some governors are starting to lift restrictions in order to get businesses up and running again. Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, said there was still insufficient personal protective equipment and not enough testing to make worksites safe yet. He called for stronger legal protections for those who will have to refuse dangerous work as their employers begin to call them back.

This has been a month like no other in modern American history. We are in a war against an invisible virus that has required most people to stay home to fight it. With each day of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have grown increasingly grateful for things we used to take for granted, like grocery workers, without whom we could not meet our most basic needs. Parents have a new appreciation for how complex and demanding teaching is, and for how teachers are helping their children continue learning, stay engaged and stay safe inside during this uneasy time.

"Once again the CDC is putting profits over people with its latest recommendations that downgrade worker protections at a time when they are needed most," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Much of the American workplace has shut down, sending millions of employees home to wait out the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy issued this statement after the Texas Workforce Commission and Gov. Greg Abbott decided to waive waiting periods and work-search requirements for Texans who lose their jobs because of the coronavirus.
As more and more working people are sidelined by the coronavirus, the Texas AFL-CIO called on Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Workforce Commission to act immediately to remove unnecessary barriers to eligibility for Unemployment Insurance benefits.
At long last, a broad cross-section of America is saying, again and again, "We are in this together." Unions have long known that when we speak together and act together with one voice, we gain power. As working people heed warnings based on science, we all gain power to slow the spread of the coronavirus.