By Georgette Gómez
This Labor Day is going to be different. While some of us may still escape to the beach, the traditions of the last long summer weekend have been upended by an economic and public health crisis of a magnitude that we haven’t seen before.
Labor Day’s celebration of working people will be muted this year. There’s little reason to celebrate when workers still lack personal protective equipment to stay safe at their jobs, paid sick leave to take care of themselves or their loved ones, and unemployment benefits have or are close to running out, making it harder to pay rent and feed their families while they cannot return to work.
While too many families in San Diego and across the country are struggling to get by, very little is getting done in Washington to give workers the support they need. During this pandemic, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have prioritized giving big corporations billions in bailouts, but in San Diego I’ve taken action and put people first.
As President of the San Diego City Council, I listened to public health experts and worked with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the council to increase access to COVID-19 testing, to protect families from evictions, and to help small businesses. I saw the fear and worry in our community during the onset of this pandemic and helped institute a utilities shut-off ban and rental assistance to support those who faced job losses and loss of income that made it difficult to pay rent and bills on time.
This week, the City Council will be addressing the dire need for paid sick leave by extending paid sick leave benefits for workers at companies with more than 500 employees. These big, well-connected corporations were able to exploit a loophole in a law passed by Congress to deny workers paid leave protections. With action next week, San Diego workers at these companies will get the paid sick leave benefits that every worker deserves.
To get through this crisis, San Diegans need a representative in Congress who will put people first and who will be relentless in the fight for protections for working families. I’m ready to bring this type of leadership and my track record of proven results to Congress. I have proposed a Bold Agenda that makes necessary federal investments to help families and our country recover, and my record as the President of the San Diego City Council proves that I can get things done for the people.
In March and April, California reported the highest levels of unemployment the state has seen since 1976. Today, even as our state has gradually reopened, the unemployment rate in San Diego is at 12.3%. Nearly 200,000 San Diegans are still not back at work, and many workers do not have a job to return to. This is the time to take action.
McConnell’s obstructionism and Trump’s inexperience, combined with their lack of understanding of the real struggles that working people are facing, have led to gridlock in Washington. No progress has been made on additional coronavirus relief packages, and by now, most of the CARES Act provisions to help the unemployed have expired. Congress must take additional action to help families that are on the brink of financial ruin and make bold investments to help our country recover from this economic recession.
In my Bold Agenda, I propose making stronger federal investments in people to support working families during this pandemic. It is crucial for Congress to extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits until this crisis ends and while unemployment numbers remain at historic highs. It is also important to provide hazard pay to the essential workers who have been on the frontlines of this crisis since day one, often exposing themselves to dangerous conditions without the proper safety equipment they needed.
This continuing public health emergency underscores the need to make universal healthcare a reality in America. No one should have to fear going to the doctor if they are sick because they can’t afford it, or lose health insurance coverage because they lost their job.
Legislative solutions to address the effects of this pandemic induced by climate change should focus on helping families weather this storm, while preparing our country for prosperity in the future, and tackling the inequality the coronavirus crisis has laid bare. If we prioritize modernizing our infrastructure, improving our transportation system, and reimagining our energy infrastructure, we will move our country to the 21st century, create jobs, and combat the climate crisis.
Emerging from this pandemic and helping families recover demands urgent investments from Congress and leaders who have the will to get the job done. Having an elected leader with a proven record of leadership and of getting things done is critical to meet the moment with the urgency it demands.
I’m more than ready to continue delivering results for San Diego families and to keep fighting for bold investments that our communities desperately need. I’ve been fighting for working people my whole life — as a community organizer and now as the President of the San Diego City Council — and I will continue fighting for workers in Congress.
Georgette Gómez is the President of the San Diego City Council. She represents District 9, and is running for Congress in November.