Postal workers on the frontlines also relied heavily on the mandatory leave benefits. Unlike most other federal employees, they are not covered by the 2019 Federal Employee Paid Leave Act. In December 2020, nearly 19,000 postal workers were under quarantine after testing positive for the virus or after exposure to the infection.
Without the mandatory federal emergency leave policy, more postal workers would’ve had little choice but to go to work even if they knew they might be a risk, driving up the infection rate for them — and their customers.
Democrats are promising to move quickly on another Covid relief bill that would provide $2,000 stimulus checks to individuals. This bill should also renew the now-expired mandatory paid leave benefits. While they’re at it, lawmakers should close a glaring loophole in the original bill.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act excluded companies with more than 500 employees from the paid leave requirements. That left out more than half of all U.S. workers.
Albertsons distribution center, Tolleson, Arizona, Jan. 4, 2021. Credit: Rich Andrade.
Last week 800 distribution center workers for Albertsons, the second-largest U.S. grocery chain, held protests in Texas and Arizona to demand better Covid-19 protections, including adequate paid leave.
Albertsons, the parent company of Safeway, Jewel, and other groceries, is just one of many major employers that have thrived under the pandemic and have no excuse for skimping on paid leave benefits. With consumers stocking up on food and eating out much less, the chain’s profits and share prices have soared, boosting the fortunes of top executives. Less than two years into the job, CEO Vivek Sankaran holds company stock worth nearly $33 million.
If we are to conquer Covid, companies need to put public health above CEO profits.