A coalition of Indiana religious leaders is calling on Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb to respect the lives and labor of Indiana families during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and to correct his leadership team’s potentially life-threatening factual misstatements of Federal and Indiana law regarding the rights of Hoosiers on the job. The coalition’s statement:
Governor Holcomb and senior officials in his executive cabinet have repeatedly told Indiana workers and members of the media that Hoosiers, employed and unemployed, must labor under unsafe conditions to receive the critical public support and protections to which they are entitled. (See, https://www.ibj.com/articles/hoosiers-worried-about-catching-covid-19-upon-return-to-work-wont-be-eligible-for-continued-unemployment-benefits ) The governor and his senior officials are wrong. Both state and federal laws exist that protect Indiana workers from working in unsafe conditions.
For those Hoosiers presently accessing temporary unemployment benefits, they are not obligated to accept workplace assignments in order to continue receiving those much-needed benefits should those assignments not guarantee safe and sanitary labor conditions. Indiana law is clear that unemployed workers are not required to accept offers of employment or re-employment if the conditions present an unsuitable and unacceptable risk to health and safety.
For Hoosiers who have already returned to the job, federal law is clear, too, that workers are not required to appear or remain at a place of work posing a serious risk to their health. Federal labor law protects the rights of Hoosiers to discuss and voice concerns over dangerous work conditions in the midst of COVID-19. ((See, https://www.tribstar.com/opinion/flashpoint/flashpoint-holcomb-teams-warnings-to-unemployed-hoosiers-dangerous-inaccurate/article_a2b46970-90a7-11ea-bec5-875f033b375a.html )
Governor Holcomb's team’s erroneous statements endanger Hoosiers and their families, both those seeking to ensure a safe environment at their present workplaces and those waiting to return to work safely. His press conference reassurance that the state could “look into” resolutions for workers’ concerns fails to offer definitive solutions for concerned workers’ questions at a time when the re-opening of the state is about to reach its final stage.
The misstatements of law and misrepresentations as to the ongoing pandemic's danger to workers by Governor Holcomb's administration violate the shared religious and moral values of the undersigned by putting worldly ambition, human arrogance, and the love of mammon above the care for the sick and hungry, even placing them at risk of sickness unto death.
We call on Governor Holcomb to assure all Hoosiers that their health and safety are of paramount importance, pledge that he and his administration will not penalize any person for declining to return to a dangerous and unsafe workplace, and vow that he will not allow business and employers to unlawfully retaliate against their workers.
Further action to uphold the dignity of the lives and labor of working families in Indiana during the coronavirus pandemic will continue to be discussed in response to the evolving public health and political crisis in our state.
Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis
Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation
Indiana Poor People's Campaign Coordinating Committee
Religious Socialism Working Group--Central Indiana DSA
Faith in Healthcare
Rev. Charles Allen
Dr. Helene Russell, Associate Professor of Theology, Christian Theological Seminary
Valerie Fillenwarth, Pax Christi Indianapolis
Rev. Norman Morford, Indianapolis
Rev. Cathy Scott
Sr. Barbara Battista, Justice Promoter, Sister of Providence
Dr. Robert S. Henry, Pastor, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
Beth Henricks, Associate Pastor, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
Fr. Clem Davis, Senior Associate, St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Rev. Jennifer Riggs
Rev. Dr. Felipe N. Martinez, First Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Indiana
Rabbi Dennis C Sasso
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Rev. Fatima Yakubu-Madus, Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
Rev. Jerry Zehr
Father Marty Peter, Columbus IN
Rev. Jeffrey Godecker, R.C. Catholic Archdiocese Indianapolis
Rev. Dr. D. Calvert Brand, Presbyterian Church USA
Sr. Emily TeKolste, Sister of Providence