OPINION: A fresh start


President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

On Jan. 20, 2021, the United States inaugurated President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. It’s a fresh start.

We live in perilous times. There will be daunting challenges, but I believe the new president and his team are up to this moment. They’ve been working at a furious pace to identify what needs to happen fast—to contain the coronavirus, to get our country vaccinated, to help struggling Americans and their communities, and to start reversing the discriminatory, hate-driven executive actions of the last four years.

But Biden and Harris cannot do it alone. Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and work together to build back better.

There’s no better way to start this work than by passing the $1.9 trillion rescue bill Biden has proposed — the American Workforce Rescue Act. It’s the Biden plan to curb the coronavirus, get the country vaccinated and invest resources where they are needed most, including billions for states, schools and localities. Write to your lawmakers and tell them to pass it.

If passed, the American Workforce Rescue Act would:

  • Put money in people’s pockets, providing an additional $1,400 to working families on top of December’s $600 check. This funding would total the $2,000 that we’ve been pushing for to help working families through the crises we face.
  • Dramatically expand the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program, investing trillions into vaccine distribution as well as testing, tracing and public health jobs to fight this pandemic.
  • Invest desperately needed aid to our cash-strapped cities, states, towns and tribes to save jobs and the essential services our communities are relying on more than ever.
  • Provide $400 supplements to people receiving unemployment, and provide critical assistance for childcare and childcare providers.
  • • Boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour and expand paid leave so that more people can stay home when they are sick or need to take care of sick loved ones.
  • Invest $130 billion to help public schools reopen safely with the necessary guardrails; infrastructure improvements and additional academic, social and emotional supports for students.

This $1.9 trillion rescue package is the kind of muscular action we need, after months of failed leadership, an economic downturn and a public health emergency. But we must get it passed. That’s where you come in. You can write to your lawmakers online at https://actionnetwork.org/letters/pass-the-american-workforce-rescue-act.

I don’t have to tell you how difficult the last four years have been for our members and our communities.

During his term as president:

  • Donald Trump fanned the flames of white supremacy and violence.
  • He prioritized the needs of wealthy corporations and cronies over the needs of working people.
  • He chose chaos over decency.
  • He downplayed a global pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 of us.
  • He used his position to enrich himself and his family, leaving the rest of us fighting for crumbs. Rather than stepping up to the challenge of governing, he abdicated responsibility at every turn.

With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we have the opportunity to do right by working families. The American Workforce Rescue Act is exactly the right place to start.

(Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the AFL–CIO. She is the former president of the United Federation of Teachers.)


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