President Donald J. Trump listens to a reporter’s question during a press conference Monday, July 27, 2020, at the Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies in Morrisville, N.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

COVID-19 does not discriminate against who to infect. It may hit you regardless of your gender, age, financial status, educational attainment, political affiliation, and religious beliefs.

However, some groups of people may be more susceptible and vulnerable to being exposed to the virus because of their present health condition and their life, home and employment situation that may prevent them from staying at home, social distancing, wearing protective masks, and seeking medical care when they get infected to help save their lives.

Such is the predicament of so many hardworking Americans who are made to work even while the pandemic has been infecting and killing so many people since December and up to now, are being forced to go back to work despite the continued threat of COVID-19.

Lucky are those with deep reserve to tap into to support the basic needs of their families, but what about the ordinary hardworking Americans who have been living paycheck-to-paycheck, taking multiple jobs that do not pay a decent living wage while the millionaires and billionaires and many in government never worried about how to feed their family or never worry about hospital bills when they have a life-threatening illness?

For many Americans these days, they feel like they are made to choose between their own survival or they lose the safety net they contributed to from their own paychecks for times like this.

President Donald Trump pushes states to re-open their economy and compel workers to go back to work, otherwise, they could lose their unemployment insurance benefits.

ENOUGH! Enough of using them as pawns to further Trump’s political interest and the business owners’ greed for money without regard to the life, safety and wellbeing of their people.

“Employers across the country are being sued by the families of workers who contend their loved ones contracted lethal cases of COVID-19 on the job, a new legal front that shows the risks of reopening workplaces,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Employers like Walmart Inc., Safeway Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and some health-care facilities now face a lawsuit for gross negligence or wrongful death since the coronavirus pandemic began unfolding in March.

The bereaved families of these employees who succumbed to Covid-19 contend the employers “failed to protect workers from the deadly virus and should compensate their family members as a result. Workers who survived the virus also are suing to have medical bills, future earnings and other damages paid out.”

Employers sued counter-argued that “they took steps to combat the virus, including screening workers for signs of illness, requiring they wear masks, sanitizing workspaces and limiting the number of customers inside stores. Some point out that it is impossible to know where or how their workers contracted COVID-19, particularly as it spreads more widely across the country.”

But we know this has not always been the case, and even in many health care facilities, the poor frontlines were not supplied with protective masks, social distancing was not enforced, and many employees were forced to go to work even when they were already not feeling well. They wouldn’t know if they were infected because testing was not available so they could not know they were infected or if they could infect others even when they were not feeling any symptoms.

This is so very true even today, with no less than the President of the United States not giving a damn to ordinary workers just to give the delusional impression that it is business is booming as usual in America, that the unemployment rate is low, that the GDP and the stock market is strong to bolster his re-election bid at the expense of the American people’s lives.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuits filed by employees against employers are “part of an unfolding liability threat facing U.S. companies of all industries as many resume operations after having employees work remotely or being shut down altogether for months.”

“The coronavirus relief bill that Senate Republicans unveiled this week would make it harder for workers to sue their employer if they get sick on the job. The proposed legislation protects companies, schools and churches from being held liable for coronavirus infections beginning in December 2019, unless they acted with willful misconduct or engaged in grossly negligent behavior,” the report stated.

What the Republicans are pushing is to protect negligent employers, “to cap punitive damages, set a clear-and-convincing-evidence burden of proof and raise requirements for personal injury lawsuits. It would also push such lawsuits to federal courts, which potentially are more favorable to defendants.”

Labor unions and consumer advocates point out the Senate bill being pushed by the Republicans “would deny redress to injured workers and their families.

The report chronicles how disadvantaged workers have been in fighting for their rights against their employers.

“Employers rarely are found liable for employee deaths tied to the workplace. That’s because the legal bar for proving fault is high, and because states often restrict such complaints to their workers’ compensation systems, which typically limit payouts to a portion of a worker’s salary, coverage of their medical bills and disability compensation,” it said.

This issue is among the reasons why there is an impasse in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on the coronavirus relief bill. The Republicans’ proposal faces resistance in the Democratic-controlled House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants lawmakers to instead bolster protections for workers by strengthening Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, the Wall Street Journal further reported.

Let us remember that it was in March that Congress passed the last major economic package and the Democratic-led House-passed measure that included an extension in May. But according to the Los Angeles Times’ reporting, “serious attempts to negotiate a new deal did not begin until Senate Republicans put forward a counterproposal this week.”

The Republicans want to blame the Democrats for the impasse, but according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “she’s skeptical Republicans are ready to start negotiating a broad package, saying they don’t yet grasp how much will be needed to address the economic problems facing the country.”

The LA Times reported that the $600 federal unemployment subsidy and the national eviction moratorium on some properties expired Friday, after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement on an economic aid package meant to deal with the growing surge of COVID-19.

The Republicans argue that the subsidy is just making people rely on handouts from government, making them not want to go back to work. This is a slap to the integrity and the hardships encountered by the American people who have suffered enough in this unjust and inequitable society.

The U.S. economy “contracted by a third between April and June, the swiftest contraction in history, and more than 30 million Americans lost their jobs,” the LA Times reported.

The truth is, the unemployment insurance benefits (that they contributed to through their paychecks) and the subsidy that are receiving their lifelines during these very hard times to pay for groceries, rent and medical needs.

The truth is, the American workers would want to go back to work but there are no jobs and the pandemic continues to threaten their safety. The truth is, the money they are spending is also intended to stimulate the economy during the recession.

As the LA Times further reported, Pelosi cited “McConnell’s proposal didn’t include money for SNAP benefits despite long lines at food banks, or money to help states and the U.S. Postal Service conduct voting by mail ahead of the Nov. 3 election.” This is yet again another attempt to disenfranchise voters who choose to vote by mail to protect themselves from the virus.

“The person you’re negotiating with has to want something,” Pelosi said. “You have to think they might want something for the American people.

Who are the Republicans working for? Are they championing the cause of ordinary hardworking Americans, especially those who are the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic?

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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