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Maine AFL-CIO President Calls For Coronavirus Help From Lawmakers

It was supposed to be the day for organized labor to lobby state legislators on perennial issues of interest to unions. Instead, their focus Thursday turned to the plight of Mainers hurt economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney says she is very worried about the tens of thousands of workers in the state with low paying jobs and no paid sick leave who will be hurt if the spread of COVID-19 results in layoffs or isolation at home.

“Many workers will be asked, entirely reasonably, to stay home. But what is unreasonable is that under our current system, those workers, in many cases, will bear the burden of that in ways that their household budgets may or may not be able to absorb.”

Phinney says labor leaders are talking with lawmakers about a range of proposals that might help, including changes to unemployment compensation and paid sick leave.

“Just as decisions about what events to cancel and which events to go forward with are ongoing from moment to moment in this period, so are the conversations about how might we address the problems and make sure this does not land on the most vulnerable, the hardest.”

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.