By SAMANTHA CASTRO

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren joined several New York City Council members, and group advocates on Thursday supporting legislation to help local essential workers get the protections they need to combat the deadly coronavirus.

“Essential workers are the backbone of our nation’s response to coronavirus,” said Warren in a press release. “We have a responsibility to make sure essential workers have the protections they need, the rights they are entitled to, and the compensation they deserve. The next relief package must put all workers front and center — but it must also specifically include the policies in our Essential Workers Bill of Rights.”

Several essential workers from a crane driver to a pharmacy technician told of their worries during the town hall. A chipotle employee, Luis Torres, expressed his and his coworkers’ concerns being fired because of contracting the virus and their inability to go to work. An Uber driver, Amara Sango, conveyed his frustration with the ride-share firm classifying  drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing the company to avoid providing drivers with virus protection and other worker rights.

“Today too many workers…” said Molly Weston Williams, a staff member of one of the organizations, A Better Balance, “are denied their rights because of their employers wrongfully misclassify them as independent contractors not entitled to their rights of protection of employees under the law. No one should choose between their life or their livelihood.”

Senator Warren and California Rep. Ro Khanna proposed the “essential workers bill of rights” to congressional leaders on April 28 and urged them to consider the protections listed in the bill for the next relief package. The  legislation consists of several benefits for essential workers including paid sick leave, health care, and health and safety protections. However, before the proposal, New York City Council unveiled its bill of rights for New York City essential workers.

“I’m glad to see people picking this up at the state level,” said Warren during the town hall. “We want to see it at a federal level but we are determined to see it right now, right here in our state.”

The New York City essential workers’ bill of rights contains some of the same provisions as Warren’s bill.  However, several council members said they wanted to take more immediate action in helping essential workers.

“Banging pots and pans are not enough,” said Councilman Brad Lander during the town hall referring to the daily 7 p.m. cheer for essential workers. “We owe them more than cheering. We have to listen to their stories and then fight for policies to get them the paid sick leave, protection, and dignity they deserve.”

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