Sisolak’s reopening decision leaving workers in the lurch

By Thomas Mitchell
Gov. Steve Sisolak has gone off half cocked again. He has said that some of the businesses he ordered closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus may reopen Saturday, but what if some workers fear for their health and that of their families? Will they no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work? Will they have to take a pay cut?
According to the morning paper, Sisolak doesn’t yet have an answer: As for employees concerned about being required to go back to work, Sisolak said that “is a very difficult situation.”
“If they’re offered their job back, and they don’t take their job back, their eligibility for unemployment comes into question,” Sisolak said, adding that the administration was working with Nevada’s federal delegation and the Labor Department on a fix.
“I want people to feel safe when they go back to work,” he said. At the same time, “a lot of people are going to go back to work and make
less than the thousand dollars a week that they’re making now, and you can say, ‘Why am I gonna go back to work?’ Those are difficult situations that we’re going to be facing in the future.”
As for the high-minded life-is-more-important-than-profit stance Sisolak and other Democrats have taken, columnist Victor Joecks takes the current hypocrisy apart: Make no mistake: Sisolak’s decision to move Nevada into Phase 1 will increase the number of coronavirus infections. “We would anticipate an increase in new cases if mitigation efforts are lifted,” state bio-statistician Kyra Morgan said in an April email.
According to no less an authority than Sisolak himself, this is unacceptable. “I am not going to allow our workers to be put in a position that they have to decide between their job, their paycheck and their life,”
Sisolak said last month on CNN. “That’s not a fair position to put them in, and I will not allow that to happen.” But that’s what he’s allowing to happen on Saturday. That’s what he did by allowing construction to continue on the Raiders Stadium — despite workers testing positive.
Sisolak isn’t the only one who’s promulgated this standard. “Georgia’s experiment in human sacrifice” was the headline of a piece in The Atlantic on the decision to reopen by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No one is expendable. No life is worth losing to add one more point to the Dow,” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday.
Sisolak’s actions on Thursday show how bogus this rhetoric is — and his own hypocrisy. Even he couldn’t live up to his own standard. Yet the governor is requiring people to choose between a paycheck and their life without knowing all of the ramifications. Will unemployment be denied if they refuse to turn to work? That would be a key criteria in making such a decision.

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