Web Only / Views » May 8, 2020
Democratic Socialist Officials Lay Out Demands for Local Government Responses to Covid-19
A just response to the pandemic requires centering working people. Here’s where to start.
We need to both save lives and build a world where working people are not vulnerable to crises like this pandemic.
As democratic socialist elected officials from across the country, now more than ever, we’re fighting for a world in which human life is valued above profit. As the Covid-19 crisis has spread, at home and abroad, we’ve seen governments slow to invest in healthcare and hospitals, but quick to open up their wallets to bail out large corporations—just as before the pandemic.
We know that our strength lies not in how many stock buybacks our corporate executives can afford, but in solidarity among workers and the knowledge that we all rise or fall together. In the United States, we are all falling in our response to Covid-19 because the federal government has neglected to give poor and working people the foundation they need to survive. Let’s be clear, this pandemic has not caused our country’s problems—it has unrelentingly brought them to light.
While the wealthy have the privilege to wait out the worst of this crisis in both physical and financial security, many working people in our districts who labor in essential fields cannot avoid going to work, even while they show symptoms of the disease. Others are set to be thrown out of their homes after their workplaces shut down, or are trapped in crowded ICE facilities or in prisons where they’re required to pay for the right to soap. Our brutal economic system facilitates the spread of this disease—and that is why we already lead the world in infections. But we can slow the spread and help those who have lost their jobs.
We need to both save lives and build a world where working people are not vulnerable to crises like this pandemic. To make that vision a reality, we pledge to fight for—and encourage municipal and state governments to support—the following demands:
- Healthcare: No one should have to worry about the cost of healthcare—and certainly not to the point that they put their own life at risk. Now more than ever, universal single-payer healthcare must be provided free at the point of service, without exceptions, including for both the documented and undocumented. Everyone, regardless of status, can get sick and spread Covid19—and deserves treatment. For healthcare facilities to be safe, ICE must be kept out as well, so that everyone can enter without fear. In the meantime, free testing and treatment must be provided for all, even if a test turns up a condition other than Covid-19. If resources are strained, we must make sure that Americans are not discriminated against by a triage system, including protecting disabled Americans. We must eliminate Covid-19 with a combination of social distancing, voluntary contact tracing and universal testing for both the virus and its antibodies. But we should not allow the surveillance that too many other countries have embraced: no tracking cell phones, facial recognition or other mass surveillance programs are necessary to beat this disease.
- Workers: This crisis has proven how dependent our society is on the labor of working-class people. Those who work in healthcare, grocery stores, logistics or any other “essential field” must be granted safe working conditions and financial security in the face of illness. But industries like construction for luxury buildings that are not essential should not be kept open, putting lives at risk to pad the profits of the rich. In order to keep healthcare workers safe, we must utilize the Defense Production Act to supply health facilities with the ventilators and personal protective equipment that they need. Support for telemedicine must also be provided to mitigate exposure between patients and healthcare workers. Paid sick leave and rigorous workplace safety rules must be provided for every essential worker so that they don’t have to risk their health to provide essential services to the rest of us. Benefits provided to those who work in “non-essential fields” must be expanded to include freelancers. And gig workers and direct financial assistance must be provided to every American and to small businesses that is substantial enough to keep them afloat. $1,200 is not enough.
- Housing: Guaranteeing housing amid this crisis is a matter of public health. Shelter in place orders, shutting down all non-essential businesses, is the correct response to this pandemic. But it is only as effective insofar as everyone has a shelter to go to. Therefore, we must implement a freeze—not just a suspension—of rent, mortgages, water and utilities payments so that people are able to stay in their homes. We must also provide housing for the homeless by utilizing eminent domain to seize or commandeer hotel rooms, apartments and foreclosed homes that currently sit vacant. This should be the beginning of a Homes for All program that will save lives and money, not a temporary measure. Debts should also be suspended or forgiven until the crisis is over.
- Government: Amid this crisis, democratic processes can only be upheld if they are accessible to all in a safe way. Therefore, we must establish universal vote by mail access, a court hiatus and calling off jury duty, as well as remote work and voting for all government bodies. What’s more, we stand with the U.S. Postal workers against attempts to privatize and cut their service, both so that we can provide an effective vote by mail system and so those workers can keep their jobs.
- Justice: We must ensure that those whose lives have been impacted by systemic injustice are not disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Jails, prisons and detention facilities have exacerbated the spread of Covid-19 for the populations that live in them. We must ensure inmates are able to stay healthy through free access to soap, other hygiene products and healthcare in prison. All prisoners awaiting trial for lack of cash bail, all those convicted of minor crimes, and all those who are immunocompromised must be released. Additionally, everyone held in ICE detention centers must be released and ICE must be abolished. Many undocumented migrants have continued working, often in dangerous jobs, without masks or protection while paying taxes, but are cut out of support from the stimulus measures. They must be eligible for the social programs that they pay into.
- Youth and Communities: The effects of Covid-19 will have long term repercussions on economic inequality due to its interruption of critical periods of development for young people. Food must be distributed to kids who are missing school lunch as well as to vulnerable people who cannot risk going out to shop. Laptops should also be provided for remote learning for children. In the long term, we must provide universal broadband to ensure everyone has access to the internet during crises.
As democratic socialists, we recognize the role that organizing in our workplaces and communities has historically played in creating social change. It is our role as elected officials to support these efforts of workers to demand safer working conditions and paid leave, as well as the efforts of community members to provide mutual aid to their neighbors. This is only the beginning—because we can’t just go back to the broken system that brought us here.
Representative Brian Cina, Vermont House of Representatives
Joel Sipress 2nd District Duluth (MN) City Councilor
Juan Marcano, Aurora City Council Ward IV
Alison Coombs, Aurora City Council Ward V
Councilman khalid, South Fulton, GA
Junie Joseph, Boulder City Council, Colorado
Byron Sigcho Lopez, Alderman 25th Ward Chicago
Adam Broad, Vernon Township Trustee, Lake County, Illinois
Ben Ewen-Campen, City Council, Somerville, MA
JT Scott, City Council, Somerville, MA
Bryan Douglass, PLS - Jefferson County (elected) & Adams County (appointed) Surveyor (Colorado)
Mike Sylvester, State House, ME
Megan Ellyia Green, 15th Ward Alderwoman, City of St. Louis
Candi CdeBaca, City Council, Denver, CO
Erik Hatlestad, City Council, New London, MN
Mike Connolly, State Representative, Cambridge and Somerville, MA
Justin M Farmer, City Council, Hamden, CT
Kara Gloe, Board of Education Director, Moorhead, MN
Dylan Parker, Alderman, 5th Ward, Rock Island, IL
Andre Vasquez, Alderman, 40th Ward, Chicago, IL
Chris Beale, City Council, District 5, Tacoma, WA
Dean Preston, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, District 5
Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Cambridge City Council
Sam Bell, State Senator, RI District 5
Julia Salazar, State Senator, NY District 18
Mark King, New Hampshire State House, Hillsborough County District 33
Selene Colburn, Representative, Vermont General Assembly, Chittenden 6-4 district
Ruth A Buffalo, State Representative, District 27, Fargo, North Dakota
Help In These Times Continue Publishing
Progressive journalism is needed now more than ever, and In These Times needs you.
Like many nonprofits, we expect In These Times to struggle financially as a result of this crisis. But in a moment like this, we can’t afford to scale back or be silent, not when so much is at stake. If it is within your means, please consider making an emergency donation to help fund our coverage during this critical time.
if you like this, check out:
- Treating the Search for a Covid Vaccine Like an Arms Race Endangers Us All
- Workers Blow the Whistle on Mass Death
- The Former Deadspin People Explain How to Launch a Worker-Owned Media Co-op That Might Succeed
- If “Cancel Culture” Is About Getting Fired, Let’s Cancel At-Will Employment
- OSHA Is Failing Essential Workers. Why Not Let Them Sue Their Bosses?