The $900 Billion Stimulus Law—Labor's View

The $900 billion stimulus law Congress passed and bitter GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump reluctantly signed has both good news and bad news for working families whose lives have been physically and financially smashed by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns and economic depression used to fight it.

And union leaders greeted ultimate approval of the measure with a “Yes, but…” attitude, saying it was fine as far as it went—but that it didn’t go far enough. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden said much the same thing.

Biden backed this bill’s passage after the Senate’s ruling Republicans and Trump adamantly refused to even consider larger measures, the more pro-worker Heroes Act, which  the Democratic-run House passed twice. Biden backed the Heroes Act, too.

But Biden also made clear that once he takes over at noon on Jan. 20, he’ll send a new, bigger economic stimulus package to Capitol Hill.

“I have said all along this bill is just a first step—a down payment—on addressing the crisis. There’s a lot more work to do. Early next year I will put before the Congress my plans for what comes next,” he told a late December press conference.

In the meantime, workers and families, union and nonunion, will have to live with what lawmakers wrought in the waning days of December. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s statement, prepared like the others, was typical.

“Millions of Americans are sick with this virus, have depleted life savings to stay afloat or are suffering economic hardship through no fault of our own,” so “we are pleased a relief deal is finally on its way to the president’s desk,” Trumka said before Trump signed the measure on the night of Dec. 27.

“It will put money in people’s pockets, keep transportation workers on the job and bolster housing, health care and food assistance. It’s an important step as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to wage a long overdue national fight against this virus. But this package should’ve been so much more,” the AFL-CIO president added.

Trumka also took another shot at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for holding aid hostage to his demand to exempt corporations who don’t protect workers or customers from the coronavirus from being sued, not just under coronavirus relief acts, but labor laws, too.

“McConnell’s delay tactics meant to protect corporations whose negligence led to thousands of deaths is despicable. His decision to block state and local aid is an insult to the public service workers who make America go. It will only lead to more layoffs as well as slower emergency response times, higher patient ratios, dirtier streets and overcrowded prisons,” said Trumka.