COVID-19 is throwing countless fellow Pennsylvanians out of work: over a million people have filed for unemployment compensation, the highest number in any state. That number accounts for 20 percent of all unemployment claims, even though Pennsylvania only has four percent of the US workforce.

While many will receive meager assistance in the form of this compensation, thousands more, such as undocumented workers, will not be able to file. Gig workers, misclassified as independent contractors, also face enormous hurdles in their ability to get assistance and have access to healthcare.

Corporations will also use this as an opportunity to create a permanent change in the labor force, automating some positions out of existence and repressing already stagnant wages—unless we fight back. Workers are still reeling from the failed recovery from 2008, whose scars run across all our public goods—schools, universities, transit—and in years of lost income. We cannot afford to repeat that failure. Rick and Nikil support the following measures to to shift the balance of power toward our working class:

WORKERS EMERGENCY FUND: Establish an emergency fund to give at least $2,000 in cash assistance to residents, regardless of immigration status. The state should establish an emergency fund that supports people who will fall outside of federal relief.

A TAX ON INCOME FROM WEALTH: Following the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s “Fair Share Tax Plan,” Pennsylvania should increase its taxes on income from wealth, and raise $2.2 billion annually to support a progressive program.

PAID LEAVE: Pennsylvania should establish an immediate number of additional paid sick days—112 frontloaded hours—immediately for all workers and measures to cover lost wages retroactively. All workers, including hourly, domestic workers, and farmworkers, regardless of their documentation or status should be paid for time missed due to the coronavirus. In addition, the state should institute an immediate paid care leave plan of twelve weeks, through the creation of a social insurance fund that allows for anyone to take leave from work or other responsibilities in order to care for an ailing relative or friend.

EXPANSION OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Pennsylvania should expand the maximum weekly eligibility for unemployment to extend through the duration of the Covid-19 crisis and one year beyond.

RIGHT TO LABOR PEACE: Any state money put into private enterprise to address this crisis requires those companies to respect the right of those workers to form a union. Furthermore, any private companies receiving aid must commit to re-hire their workforce under the same union contract as before the crisis. Any companies who wish to receive aid and do not have unionized workforces must immediately commit to paying workers at least $15/hr and providing full medical benefits and paid sick leave as a prerequisite to receiving aid.