Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino testified before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Thursday about COVID-19’s impact on local governments and essential workers, and urged the federal government for further assistance.
The testimony was part of the committee’s hearing on protecting transportation workers and passengers from COVID-19.
Buscaino appeared virtually on behalf of the advocacy organization National League of Cities, for which he previously served as president and which represents nearly 20,000 U.S. cities and towns.
Buscaino urged Congress to help local governments respond to the virus, as well as recover and rebuild when the pandemic ends. He also asked the committee to take steps to protect workers in the U.S. supply chain, including the thousands of dock workers he represents at the Port of Los Angeles.
“I want you to know, colleagues, that any relief Congress passes for cities will be used to continue to support our most valuable asset, our people,” Buscaino said. “America’s communities are proud to have a dedicated and resilient workforce of professional and essential workers who have kept everything running, especially those who are part of our national supply chain.”
“Unfortunately, far too many have fallen ill or lost their lives … our dock workers may be essential, but shouldn’t be sacrificial,” he said.
He said the most urgent protection essential workers need is supplies and vaccinations. At the Port of Los Angeles, 10% of longshore workers are quarantining due to COVID-19 and 30 ships are waiting to unload goods that have been ordered online by American consumers.
“This is unheard of at our port complex,” he said.
He said that the misclassification of many workers, including truck drivers, as independent contractors has put the supply chain at risk, as they are not given sick leave and must “fend for themselves against a pandemic placing their lives at risk.”
Buscaino called for the federal government to “directly partner” with local governments to support workers and to ramp up vaccination distribution so that essential employees, like dock workers at the Port of Los Angeles, receive vaccines.