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.

Democratic Socialist Elected Officials May 8, 2020

It's time to put workers at the forefront of the recovery. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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 need to both save lives and build a world where working people are not vulnerable to crises like this 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.

Signed:

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

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