Demands on Employers
UPDATED April 2, 2020 at 11:45am EDT
We are urging UE locals to be aggressive in making sure that workers’ needs and concerns are taken into account as our employers respond to the pandemic.
First, we encourage locals to consult with your assigned UE staff representative (who will have additional resources) and with your membership to determine whether your workplace is truly essential — whether the goods or services you provide are really critical for sustaining life.
If your workplace is not essential, we encourage you to demand that your employer shut down until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. The CARES Act, which was signed into law at the end of March and has taken effect immediately, provides numerous benefits which should enable your members to provide for their families through the duration of any shutdown. More details are available at our Fact Sheet on the CARES Act.
If there is some essential work being performed in your workplace, we encourage you to demand that the employer reduce the number of workers in the facility to only those needed for the essential work. Alternatively, call on the employer to shift all work to the essential product or service.
For any workplaces remaining open, which should be limited to those workers performing truly essential work, we suggest the following general demands (working with your assigned UE staff representative and membership to develop specific demands tailored to your workplace, industry, and community):
- Locals should demand the right to bargain over any changes that affect workers’ safety and health, pay, hours, benefits or working conditions.
- Employers should provide the local union with information about anytime anyone at the workplace tests positive, and take appropriate steps to quarantine anyone who has been exposed, with full pay and benefits throughout the length of the quarantine. (See our “If COVID-19 comes into your workplace, what do you do next?” page for more information.)
- Workers who can do their jobs remotely should be allowed to do so, with no loss of pay or benefits.
- Depending on the circumstances, the union should consider proposing hazard pay.
- Employers should support workers in taking whatever precautions they feel are necessary to protect themselves, their families and their communities:
- Employers should suspend time and attendance policies, and no disciplinary action should be taken, or attendance “occurrences” recorded, for absences during the pandemic.
- Employers should provide paid time off and flexible working hours to workers who need to care for children who are home due to school closures.
- Workers who are members of high-risk populations for severe illness, including those over age 60, those who are immunocompromised, and those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, should have the right to refuse work where they interact with other workers or the public. If the employer is unable to provide such an accommodation, the worker should be given a temporary layoff with a continuation of employer-provided health insurance and with the ability to collect unemployment benefits and accrue seniority while off work.
- Workers should not be required to use vacation or paid personal time for any COVID-19-related absences from work. Health insurance benefits should be protected during their absence.
- Employers should provide paid medical leave for workers whose ability to work is impacted by COVID-19 in any way, and all requirements for doctors’ notes should be waived, as the CDC has recommended.
- Employers should take measures to ensure a sanitary workplace, driven by workers’ concerns and science, including but not limited to providing personal protective equipment appropriate for the job assignment and making CDC-recommended cleaning chemicals available for all environmental services and spaces shared with the public.
- It is the employer’s responsibility to provide necessary PPEs and cleaning chemicals.
- The employer should ensure that all high touch surfaces and high traffic areas are regularly disinfected. All public facing areas should be disinfected every hour.
- The employer should adjust work processes to ensure that workers can be a safe distance from each other.
- Workers should be provided with extra breaks to wash their hands. The employer should provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
- Minimize worker contact with the general public.
- The union should consider proposing changes in shift times to reduce the number of workers in the facility at one time
- The union should consider demanding employer-provided work uniforms and appropriate changing areas so that workers do not bring potentially contaminated garments into their personal vehicles or homes.
- Employers should implement engineering controls to reduce exposure to hazards, including installing physical barriers (such as clear plastic sneeze guards, installing high-efficiency air filters or increasing ventilation rates).
- If the employer and/or union members want to put additional screening measures in place to try to prevent the virus from entering the workplace, such as taking workers’ temperatures prior to the start of shifts, demand that such screenings take place on work time.
- Employers who are unable to get sanitizing supplies should join the union in demanding that governments at all levels take immediate action to increase production of these essential items.