Working people are on the front lines to keep us safe, but they too need our assistance

By Mario Cilento, New York State AFL-CIO President | March 16, 2020

The continued spread of the novel coronavirus and unprecedented actions in response, are jarring to say the least, but also demonstrate the best in all of us. Our capacity for good and compassion for one another is no more evident than the selflessness and professionalism demonstrated by union members across the state, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that they too will need support as this pandemic develops.

The work of our members across all trades and sectors has been inspiring. Health care workers are monitoring, testing, and treating patients; direct-care workers are caring for at risk populations and doing all they can to keep them safe; teachers and child care workers are putting our children’s minds at ease as they themselves worry about what lies ahead; supermarket and retail workers are making supplies available to our families in the face of insatiable demand; police officers, fire fighters, EMTs and other first responders are answering our calls for help; transit workers are laboring day and night to keep our systems safe and the hardworking people that utilize them moving; and maintenance and cleaning workers are trying their best to prevent the spread of this disease. The list goes on and on, and we could never cite all the workers who are involved in this unprecedented response.

But make no mistake, working people are also hurting and bearing a disproportionate share of the burden caused by this crisis. Certainly, many workers and their families are sick or will become ill, some as a direct result of their jobs. But we cannot forget that as more and more individuals refrain from the actions typical of their daily life and as difficult but necessary choices are made to reduce public gatherings and postpone events, there is a potential for the loss of our members’ own livelihood. Hospitality, transportation, entertainment, retail, and construction workers and their families are just some of the working people that are placed in a precarious position. They need our help.

Throughout this public health crisis, the New York State AFL-CIO has been and will continue to be laser focused on ensuring the safety of our members on the front lines. We are equally committed to ensuring paid leave for those who become ill or are quarantined, as well as enhanced eligibility for critical worker benefits for those whose income is interrupted as a result of COVID-19.

Workplace safety and health and assisting our sisters and brothers in times of need are the bedrock of our labor movement, and they will be our guiding principles in the weeks and months ahead.

The New York State AFL-CIO is a federation of 3,000 unions, representing 2.5 million members, retirees and their families with one goal; to raise the standard of living and quality of life of all working people. We keep New York State Union Strong by fighting for better wages, better benefits and better working conditions. For more information on the Labor Movement in New York, visit