'It's hard labor. Nonstop work': Essential workers ask for COVID bonus

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 18:20:33-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky General Assembly will vote on the state budget in the next few weeks and essential workers want lawmakers to include bonuses for people who worked throughout the pandemic.

On Thursday, a coalition of labor organizations, representing all types of essential workers across Kentucky, urged lawmakers to do "the right thing" and give people those bonuses.

"Essential workers kept our economy going during uncertain times, and Teamsters in grocery, freight, manufacturing, package delivery and other fields were the backbone of it all," said Avral Thompson, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 89.

"It's hard work. It's hard labor. Nonstop work," said Jonathan Cosby, a worker at a Kroger distribution center.

Cosby explained that he sometimes had to work up to 15 hours a day to ensure Kentucky's grocery stores were stocked during the pandemic.

"Working hard trying to get food out. If we didn't have any food, you guys wouldn't be able to eat right now," said Cosby.

UPS drivers, like Richard Lesher, also had no option but to work throughout the pandemic.

"We went into work every day because people were ordering more and more stuff online. That became the way to shop, and we were handling more and more volume," said Lesher. "We had people that were affected by the virus. Unfortunately, we have had a handful of people who passed away from the virus. And all the time, we kept coming into work to make sure people could get the goods they ordered."

Teachers also want to be considered for COVID bonuses.

Fourth and fifth-grade teacher Wendy Young explained the challenges of quickly adjusting to teaching students online.

"We had to learn how to teach our children online when there was no professional development. I'm going to tell you - I got my professional development from TikTok," said Young. "So, thank you TikTok world. Thank you because that's where I learned how to teach online."

Firefighters, construction workers, transit workers, and many others also hope to be considered.

The money - about $400 million - is available for bonuses thanks to the American Rescue Plan. But how that money is allocated is ultimately up to lawmakers.