Members and supporters of the Northern Valley Labor Council, AFL-CIO, gathered at Grand Forks’ Federal building to deliver a message to U.S. Sen. John Hoeven. That message -- support the HEROES Act.
About a dozen supporters gathered in the shade on the building’s south side shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 29. That number grew to just over 20 people, as they moved to the sunny, west side just after that, to unfurl a banner urging passersby to ask North Dakota’s senate delegation to support the HEROES Act. The U.S. House of Representatives passed that act in mid-Mayand comes in to the tune of $3 trillion and revives the $600-per-week extra benefit in unemployment.
The U.S. Senate announced its own $1 trillion stimulus package on July 27, which includes another round of direct payments and the Paycheck Protection Program. Notably, that package’s unemployment benefit stands at $200 per week.
“Our main goal is to make people aware of the HEROES Act,” said Mark Froemke, president of the NVLC, ALF-CIO. “America’s in a crisis situation .... If we do the right thing, we can keep peoples’ heads above water.”
Amanda Westin, a social and emotional learning strategist at Valley Middle School, told the group some educators will be happy to see their students again, but she wants to see schools open safely. In her remarks, she asked Hoeven to support the HEROES Act.
“It would be a lifeline to give our schools a fighting chance to stay in the building,” Weston said. “If we don’t do it safely, we’ll be in and out.”
Weston addressed the group shortly after Ron Franz, a rally attendee, led members in a round of pro-labor songs.
At 4:30 p.m., a small delegation of the group entered the building to deliver the message to Hoeven’s office, but not before Froemke asked Wayne Burlog, secretary/treasurer of NVLC, AFL-CIO, to read it to the group. Burlog read, in part:
“The numbers of the people who have been affected by COVID-19 have exponentially increased in nearly every state. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment through no fault of their own, and the HEROES Act was designed to save lives and livelihood.”
NVLC, AFL-CIO’s area extends from Grand Forks to the Canadian border and includes Polk County in Minnesota. The group has about 2,000 members.