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Congress Must Put California Essential Workers First in Budget Vote as COVID Risks Continues

November 18, 2021

By Gladys Gonzalez

With COVID-19 risks continuing and working families still trying to get back on their feet, Congress must step up now to support essential workers who have been on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic. We need action more than ever to protect essential workers like me.

As Congress prepares to vote on the Build Back Better budget bill, they must address four priorities: increase funding for personal protective equipment for frontline workers, expand paid leave so more workers can get vaccinated without losing a paycheck, protect the right of workers to unionize for better working conditions, and expand the child tax credit to ensure more working parents have the help they need.

This year marks 23 years of serving my community in Orange County as a lead pharmacy technician at CVS Pharmacy. By far, this past year since the COVID-19 pandemic started has been the most challenging. Throughout my time at CVS Pharmacy, I have always been able to count on support from my union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324.

The unusual circumstances since the COVID-19 pandemic began have made me even more grateful for my union and everything we have accomplished together to strengthen jobs like mine. Thanks to my union, I have had access to PPE and priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine and also safety procedures were implemented at my workplace. 

In addition, my union has been a leading voice in the call to provide greater support and financial assistance for working parents and a strong supporter of President Biden’s child tax credit, which has been a game changer for hardworking families like mine across California.

This middle class tax cut has helped my family so much, ensuring we have the support we need to better afford childcare and essentials for my 2-year-old son. It has truly bettered our lives since it gives us peace of mind and guarantees we can cover all our expenses and live a basic life with comfort.

I was recently asked, “What would you say to elected leaders who are trying to end the child tax credit?” The answer is blunt and simple: Would you take food away from a child’s hands? Some may think this is harsh, but the reality is, many working-class families are staying afloat because of this child tax credit. Taking away this investment for working parents across the country would be cruel and heartless. 

The child tax credit has been like a breath of fresh air for essential workers like me and it must be protected. If Congress wants to do all it can to make life more affordable for workers and families our leaders must show their full support by strengthening the rights of workers to unionize for better working conditions in this budget bill and expanding the child tax credit.

The message to Congress couldn’t be more clear: include pro-worker policies in the budget bill. All essential workers like me have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one. Essential workers in Orange County and across California have earned the support and assistance we are asking Congress to deliver. 

To make sure essential workers can continue to serve our communities during this devastating pandemic with dignity and respect, Congress must include funding for frontline worker PPE, guarantee paid leave so all workers can get vaccinated without sacrificing a paycheck, strengthen the ability of workers to speak out for safer working conditions, and expand the child tax Credit to support hardworking families still struggling as the economy recovers.

Essential workers like me need action now to support us on the frontlines of this new COVID-19 surge. Without action, none of us – workers, customers, and our community – are safe and truly taken care of. We are asking Congress to put essential workers and America’s working families first when they vote on the Build Back Better budget bill.

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Gladys Gonzalez is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 324 and works at a CVS Pharmacy in Orange County, California.