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Opinion | The HEROES Act is what Alabama needs

The HEROES Act is the road map to rebuilding America and saving working families.

This week, Alabama set a record for most COVID-19 cases reported in a day. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports at least 431 Alabamians have died in the month of July from COVID-19, a new record.

Make no mistake: this pandemic is far from over and is continuing to upend the lives and economy of Alabama’s citizens. As the president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, the state’s labor federation, I urge our state officials to address the public health crisis and the economic damage it is causing.

For over two months, a coronavirus relief package that will put the safety of Alabama’s workers first has been sitting untouched at the desk of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. The funds for testing and tracing, support for frontline workers, and assistance to businesses provided in the HEROES Act is what our state needs right now, and we need our elected officials to act.

I commend U.S. Rep Sewell for voting on its passage in May, and she was right in describing the legislation as “[honoring] the service that our frontline workers by providing them with well-deserved hazard pay,” along with the support they need to keep our communities fed, safe and healthy.

And as the GOP races against the clock to get another piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk, I applaud Sen. Doug Jones for pushing his Senate colleagues to take up HEROES Act, despite having his own criticisms on the bill.

However, it is unfortunate that many of our other elected officials in this state do not feel the same way. There is no reason our government has to turn the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans into a partisan issue. Every day, this virus continues to ravage the people of our state. We’re seeing it right now, and it’s only going to get worse.

Therefore, we cannot afford to wait, which is why Alabama’s labor movement is demanding action from Sen. Shelby, and more action from Sen. Jones, before this crisis pushes our nation past the point of no return. On Wednesday, July 22, union members and leaders made over 20,000 calls to members of Congres demanding action on the HEROES Act, and our hard work was noticed by House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer.

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The HEROES Act is the road map to rebuilding America and saving working families.

Workers built America. We keep this nation running every day, and we will rebuild America’s prosperity. Now we must stand up and demand action from our government; we must call for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act.


Bren Riley is the president of the Alabama AFL-CIO. The Alabama AFL-CIO is a federation of unions that represents over 50,000 union members and is made up of 37 international unions from across the state. The Alabama AFL-CIO serves as part of the national AFL-CIO, which is made up of 12.5 million workers.

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