For immediate release
June 17, 2020
Over 1,000 Union Members Circle U.S. Capitol in “Workers First Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice,” call on Congress to enact bold policies to address ongoing pandemic, economic free-fall, and racial injustice
Caravan part of hundreds of nationwide actions by labor movement and allies
Photos and B-Roll | View a recording of the Caravan Press Conference
WASHINGTON, DC—On Wednesday, June 17, over 1,000 union members gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Workers First Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice, the headline event of a massive national mobilization featuring hundreds of actions calling for bold policies to confront the three crises facing America: a public health pandemic, an economic free fall and long-standing structural racism.
Workers in health care, public education, public service, hospitality and more, called on lawmakers to act now by implementing America’s Five Economic Essentials and passing the HEROES Act. Both provide a roadmap to economic recovery that would protect health care, paychecks, and pensions, ensure worker safety, fund public schools and services, support infrastructure, and help address the racial disparity and systemic racism impacting the country. Both must be adopted and implemented in ways that recognize the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on workers of color.
The Workers First Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice was organized by AFSCME, AFT, IUPAT, IBT, UFCW, UNITE HERE and the AFL-CIO. Caravans from across all 50 states and Puerto Rico participated in solidarity actions.
Patricia Williams, cashier at the U.S. State Department Cafeteria and member of UNITE HERE Local 23
“I joined the caravan today because millions of workers are in dance of losing our employer-provided health care in the middle of a health care crisis, including myself. If Congress does not act I will lose my health insurance on July 31, and without insurance there’s no way I’ll be able to afford my treatments and medications. I was told that if I wanted to keep my insurance through COBRA, it would cost me $966 per month, but I can’t afford that, especially since I have no idea when I’ll be called back to work. Congress must enact the Five Economic Essentials, including taking action to save my health care and the health care of millions more workers, by ensuring 100% federal payment support for COBRA.”
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President
“The labor movement is about uprooting racist inequities, starting with the HEROES Act, and with the Five Economic Essentials that we know we need and fighting for a country that, when we say justice for all, we mean justice for all.
We are fighting for the systemic, comprehensive reform that we need in schools, in policing, and in our health care system so that all Americans can prosper, not just some. That is why the workers of the United States are out there in force today in this Caravan, fighting for people all across America, fighting for kids, for our streets to be safe, and fighting for our schools to be funded. We urgently need federal funding that helps states, localities, schools and towns weather this rolling storm – and if we don’t act, we’ll forfeit the future: essential services will be gutted, schools won’t be able to reopen and tens of millions more workers will lose their jobs.”
Chrystal Puryear, pre-Kindergarten teacher at Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, DC, member of Washington Teachers’ Union Local 6
“I’m here today participating in the caravan because my coworkers and I are concerned whether we will have a safe environment when we return to our classrooms. We need PPE provided and environments that are clean and safe for everyone. Additionally, we are demanding full funding, including counselors back in our schools, because police are not the answer for discipline issues. Teachers are workers like everyone else. Congress must act today because our school children depend on us as teachers, and they depend on being in safe schools and safe environments.”
Jason Suggs, Unemployment Claims Center Associate and President of AFSCME Local 3641 from College Park, MD
“State and local funding is absolutely necessary to ensure that the communities hit hardest by the coronavirus receive the help they desperately need, and that we are able to beat this pandemic and safely reopen the economy. Without this aid, we will see massive layoffs and cuts to vital public services like sanitation, health care, water treatment and social services. These cuts will disproportionately affect black workers just like they did during the Great Recession, and it will in turn bring down local economies as essential workers go from supporting local businesses to needing assistance to keep a roof over their heads. I urge senators to lead with compassion and provide additional funding for state and local governments. The COVID-19 pandemic has showed us why it’s crucial to strengthen and adequately fund our state government programs. We can’t wait any longer. We need action now.