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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/22/20

Any Coronavirus bailout must put workers first: Sen. Elizabeth Warren

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From USA Today

The Trump administration's current proposals and the one released by Senate Republicans this week are sorely inadequate because they contain none of these protections for workers and taxpayers.

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren
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As Congress responds to the coronavirus emergency, the financial security of workers and their families should be our first priority. That means making sure that any federal bailout of giant corporations directly helps their employees, fuels a grassroots recovery and ensures that those big companies make serious, long-term reforms that reduce the odds they're back before taxpayers again looking for another bailout.

But the Trump administration's current proposals and the one released by Senate Republicans this week are sorely inadequate because they contain none of these protections for workers and taxpayers. All they require are vague limits not elimination, but merely "limits" on airline executives' pay increases. These proposals appear to be yet another no-strings-attached bailout for failed CEOs and simply aren't enough to meet the moment.

I understand that major portions of the American economy have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and make no mistake: the federal government must mount a robust response. Now is the time to come together and make sure that response reaches workers directly.

Today, companies that poured billions of dollars into stock buybacks and executive pay during good times are threatening to lay off workers now that things have gone bad. Airlines, for instance, spent 96% of their profits over the past decade on stock buybacks. Those decisions hurt workers, and now it's workers again that will pay the price if Congress fails to act.

That's why any taxpayer money we provide to these companies must go directly to workers, and must come with strings attached to make sure companies don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

I've proposed several conditions on any relief money for big companies to ensure it benefits American workers and taxpayers. These companies must:

  • Maintain payrolls and use federal funds to keep people working;
  • Provide a $15 an hour minimum wage;
  • Not engage in stock buybacks permanently;
  • Not pay out dividends or executive bonuses while they receive federal funds and for three years thereafter;
  • Provide at least one seat to workers on their board of directors or more if they take bigger bailouts;
  • Leave collective bargaining agreements with workers in place;
  • Get shareholder and board approval for all political spending; and
  • Require that CEOs certify that their companies are complying with these rules and face criminal penalties for filing false certifications.

To make sure these conditions are met, Congress must create a strong oversight body to monitor how companies are using taxpayer dollars and investigate violations. Companies and executives should face criminal penalties and clawbacks if they violate these conditions.

More: Senator Burr's utterly shameless stock dumping

These aren't radical ideas. Many of my colleagues in Congress, including Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have already called for prohibiting recipient companies from buying back stock, rewarding executives, and laying off workers. Even President Trump has said he would support banning stock buybacks in a corporate bailout bill.

The millions of families who will be affected by the coronavirus crisis cannot afford for Congress to only provide relief for big banks and their executives. We must insist that any bailout legislation contain basic guarantees to ensure that workers and working families get the help they need.

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Elizabeth Warren was assistant to the president and a special adviser to the Treasury secretary on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She single-handedly set us this bureau, putting in place the building blocks for an agency that will (more...)

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