Nevada construction workers fear being left behind by Congress as COVID-19 halts industry

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — IUPAT, a leading international building trades union demands relief for the blue-collar workforce. COVID-19 has decimated the U.S. construction industry, and the IUPAT union says Congress has done little to provide relief for workers in this major jobs sector.

The leading international building trades union posted Monday on their website that the needs of construction workers have been excluded from COVID-19 relief bills currently being considered by Congress.

Although construction is the 6th largest U.S. employment sector, larger than the transportation, financial, and information sectors, construction labor officials say the industry is being overlooked.

“Millions of construction and finishing trades workers and their families are getting totally wiped out, and Congress is doing very little about it,” fumed Ken Rigmaiden, General President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), which represents more than a hundred thousand building trade workers.

“If construction workers don’t work, they don’t get paid. They can’t work remotely. They don’t receive furloughs, or paid leave. But not one Congressional COVID-19 bill grants real relief to this vulnerable workforce,” added Rigmaiden.

As a result, the nation’s 11 million construction workers and their families are getting left behind.

Las Vegas resident Sarah Skidmore, a commercial painter, is desperately seeking work. Her husband who also works in the construction industry is currently working, but no one knows how long that will last.

Skidmore is a breast cancer survivor in remission, which makes her a higher risk for COVID-19-related complications. She is currently not eligible for unemployment, and her health insurance has expired.

“I’m immunocompromised, and I know if I got infected, it would mean that my family would be financially compromised,” said an emotional Skidmore.

“Why is Congress turning its back on the people who build up our country? Shouldn’t they build us up in a time like this?” added Skidmore.

Skidmore is one of the millions of painters losing their jobs as cities and states have been forced to close down construction sites and bring U.S. construction to a grinding halt.

The IUPAT estimates that at least 50% of construction sites across the country have already been shut down, and fears that number could rise as high as 90%. The union agrees that shutdowns are necessary for many places to protect the health of employees and the public—but believes Congress has a responsibility to act so that workers are protected both on and off the job, especially in states with few, if any, worker protections. Layoffs are forcing workers to choose between their safety and making ends meet on basic items like food and prescriptions.

The union is urging Congress to take 4 bold action steps to stand up for vulnerable construction workers:

  • Provide immediate unemployment to laid-off construction workers at 100% lost wages
  • Provide continued health coverage so no one goes uninsured in the crisis
  • Secure retirement plans affected by the crisis
  • Invest in American infrastructure to quickly put construction workers back to work

IUPAT says the bills Congress is considering include provisions like student loan suspension, and airline industry bailouts, but nothing to specifically address key needs of the millions of working families in construction who are finding themselves out of work and with uncertain futures.

“Not a single Congressional COVID-19 bill gives construction workers relief for the specific needs they have in the wake of this pandemic,” said IUPAT General President Ken Rigmaiden. “That’s why the IUPAT has proposed a Bold Action Platform for Working Families to demand Congress act now for these workers.”

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades represents a growing community of over 110,000 active and retired craftspeople in the United States and Canada.

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