May 13, 2020

Labor Presidents from AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, NEA, SEIU Join Ranking Member Klobuchar For Discussion on Election Funding

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, hosted a call with labor union presidents including, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, AFT President Randi Weingarten, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry to discuss the need to pass funding immediately to protect Americans’ right to safely vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we were all left with a searing image of those workers in line in Wisconsin—some of them in homemade masks and garbage bags—standing in the rain just to be able to vote,” Klobuchar said. “Dozens of them got sick, including a poll worker. At the same time, the President of the United States was able to vote in the luxury of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with his mail-in vote ballot that he got from Palm Beach, Florida. Every American should have that same right. So the plan is to give the states the funding so they can do this.”

"In the middle of a global pandemic, we must make it easier and safer to vote than ever before," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. "State and local governments should have the resources so every single citizen can vote by mail. And if you want to vote in-person, you should be able to vote early. Senator Klobuchar’s bill would be a great step forward by requiring every state to adopt vote by mail and guaranteeing 20 days of in-person early voting."

"Vote by mail and early in-person voting are proven successes, and all the bluster about fraud from the other side is nothing more than a smokescreen to conceal their efforts to disenfranchise people -- especially poor people, especially people of color,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said. “Now more than ever, in the middle of a public health crisis, we need to make it as easy and as safe as possible for people to vote. We have the tools to do it. We know what the best practices are. The only thing standing in the way is cynicism and partisanship."

“No American should have to put their life at risk in order to make their voice heard in our democracy. No one should have to worry about the possibility of getting sick because they went to vote. But sadly, we have already seen that happen in WI, where at least 67 voters and poll workers contracted COVID-19 after participating in the recent primary,” National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said. “That is why this legislation is needed to ensure every American citizen can exercise their right to vote safely, in the manner they are most comfortable with – be it through vote-by-mail, in-person early voting, or in-person on election day." 

"The last 12 weeks have been a shock to nearly everyone in this country," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. "But even as so many of us have been privileged enough to work from home, service and care workers have had to continue going to work. It's no coincidence that those same workers are more likely to be people of color and are more likely to have obstacles to voting put in their way, as we saw in Wisconsin. Congress can put an end to that. Working people need their elected leaders to meet the urgency of this moment. We cannot force people to choose between their health or their say in our nation’s future this November."

Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to ensure that every American can safely cast a ballot in the next election.

In March, Klobuchar introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 which would expand early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states, while providing states the funding and resources to improve the safety of elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Klobuchar, Coons, and Wyden published an op-ed in USA TODAY, highlighting the need for upcoming relief packages to include money and direction for states to expand vote-by-mail and early voting. Klobuchar, Coons, Wyden Lead Democrats in Call for $3.6B to expand Vote-By-Mail, Early Voting in CARES 2 Relief Package

In April, Klobuchar wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on the need to expand mail voting, early voting, and online voter registration. In March, Klobuchar and Wyden wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, highlighting the need “to protect the foundation of our democracy by ensuring that every eligible American can safely cast a ballot in the upcoming elections.”

This week, Klobuchar and Murray led 25 colleagues in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling on the Administration to issue updated and comprehensive guidance on safety measures to keep voters, poll workers, and election workers safe during upcoming elections, both for mail voting and in-person voting.

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