Standing up for workers
Today is May Day, a day to celebrate workers across our nation. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the frontline health care providers, grocery store clerks, pharmacists, sanitation workers, truck drivers, and every other worker who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep our country going during this unprecedented crisis.
It’s not enough just to say thank you, however. We also need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of these workers. One group that I’m particularly concerned about is the hardworking men and women at our nation’s meatpacking plants.
In the last two months, dozens of meatpacking workers across the country have died from the coronavirus and thousands more have tested positive for the disease. But rather than take steps to ensure the safety of these workers, President Trump announced an Executive Order this week to keep meatpacking plants open under the Defense Production Act.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to President Trump demanding answers on what is being done to protect these workers from coronavirus in the face of his new Executive Order. If these plants are to remain open, we need to know, among other things, how social distancing will be enforced on production lines, whether workers will get personal protective equipment and what steps are being taken to ensure workers have access to coronavirus tests.
Another group of workers I have been trying to protect this week are our nation’s researchers. While coronavirus-related research is now in overdrive, most other research has been slowed down or stopped altogether due to pandemic-induced closures of campuses and laboratories. Now, hundreds of thousands of graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators and other technical support staff are at risk of losing their employment and their work.
On Wednesday, I led 182 of my colleagues in sending a letter to House Leadership urging them to include $26 billion in the next coronavirus relief package for scientific and medical researchers who have been impacted by the pandemic. This money would help ensure these labs can survive the crisis and researchers can continue their critical work when it is safe to do so.
Speaking of scientific research, I was happy to share next steps this week for the second iteration of my landmark 21st Century Cures legislation – which was signed into law in December 2016 and has fundamentally changed how our country researches and develops cures for some of the most vexing diseases.
In the face of this pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we continue our efforts to modernize the way we treat these diseases. Our new bipartisan legislation – which we are calling Cures 2.0 – will build on the successes of 21st Century Cures and help us take the next step toward finding and delivering more life-saving cures for patients.
Among other things, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and I are exploring ways to improve our nation’s pandemic surveillance and testing capabilities, support antimicrobial resistance product commercialization and expand vaccine education and surveillance. While we hope to introduce the full package later this year, we are working to get specific coronavirus-related provisions included in the next coronavirus relief bill.
Finally, for those of you with high school-aged kids or grandkids, I wanted to share an important update on our annual art competition. Due to the coronavirus, the deadline for the 2020 Congressional Art Competition has been extended and submissions will now be virtual.
This is one of my favorite events of the year and I can’t wait to see the wonderful artwork that young people in our community create. Click here for more information on how high school artists can enter their art by June 1. And please help us spread the word to any high school artists you may know.
As always, if you have any questions, or need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 303-844-4988. Or you can visit my website at DeGette.house.gov to learn more about all of the different ways that my staff and I are available to assist you.
Member of Congress