Essential workers all across the country are speaking out at local government hearings—in such states as Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida—sharing their experiences with elected officials and advocating for a say in how workers and the customers, clients and patients they serve can be kept safe.
In addition to raising how people could safely return to workplaces and public spaces, they're speaking to underlying economic and racial inequalities that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many say that giving workers a say through good, union, family-sustaining jobs is the only way to ensure our safety and begin to transform precarious, low-wage jobs.
A sampling of the Essential Worker events:
In May, SEIU Local 105 in Colorado held a telethon encouraging essential workers to call U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, who declined an invite to attend, to tell him to #ProtectAllWorkers. Watch Certified Nursing Assistant Scarlett Markus, airport workers and others, who call on Sen. Gardner to "step up."
Also in May, both SEIU Local 503 and SEIU Local 49 in Oregon held a hearing featuring U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Janitor and SEIU 49 member Renato Quintero, who lost two relatives to COVID (and knows several who have had the virus, including his brother) advocated for better data collection to help us limit the spread of the virus.
In July, 32BJ SEIU and the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing featuring frontline workers. Bicycle Security Officer and 32BJ member Eve Carlton from Philadelphia County explained that, "While cheering nightly for workers is a nice gesture, it's not enough. Essential workers didn't cause these ills, and right now we're working through tough times. We need PPE, hazard pay and unemployment protections." Simply put: worker’s health is public health. If essential workers aren’t safe and healthy, it puts everyone at risk.
In August, Fight for $15 Florida, Faculty Forward Florida and Central Florida Jobs with Justice (collectively called Solidarity Response) held a forum with elected representatives. Central Florida Jobs with Justice Co-Director Jonathan Alingu said at the outset: "Going forward we want to call for worker health safety councils, for legislation that will bring together essential workers and their unions, industry, and state and local agencies to determine how to ensure that workplaces are safe for both workers and the public—because in the end we are truly in this together."