Workers Need Protections Now More Than Ever
The AFL-CIO calls on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to resume the conduct of union elections, election-related hearings and unfair labor practice proceedings as soon as possible, consistent with public health. The NLRB suspension of operations destroys a vital resource for workers’ rights at an unprecedented time in history when it is needed most.
“Right now, union representation is critical in the midst of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, with workers facing unsafe conditions, layoffs and intense uncertainty,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “So long as the NLRB is not conducting elections, we call on the Board to demand that all employers similarly suspend their anti-union campaigns.”
Because of the NLRB’s actions, workers who want the collective voice and protection of a union to address these threats are being denied these rights. For example, 850 steelworkers with health, safety and job loss concerns at an ArcelorMittal site in Alabama now have had their vote in an NLRB election postponed. More than 1,000 HMSHost airport concessions workers in Denver and Orlando, Florida, whose jobs put them at extreme risk of exposure, were scheduled to vote in elections for representation by UNITE HERE the week of March 22. The list goes on, while fear of infection for workers who are still on the job without adequate protections grows.
Meanwhile, front-line workers with union representation have seen a substantial difference in benefits and protections in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) at Stop & Shop recently bargained for hazard pay in recognition of the heightened risk in addition to safety protocols and additional sick leave. Bikeshare workers represented by the Transport Workers (TWU) used the bargaining process to secure distancing in shops, staggered shifts and touch-screen protocols, and to expand the New York state’s sick leave standard to Bikeshare workers in all represented locations.
While fully respecting the right of its own employees to safe working conditions, we call on the NLRB to use its authority and capacity to protect employee rights. Throughout the past decade, the board has taken large steps toward electronic filing and other digital operations. Now is the time to implement fully remote operating procedures, including conducting pre- and post-election hearings and unfair labor practice hearings by video conference and all elections by mail ballot.
During this national public health and economic emergency, workers need access to their rights more than ever and the NLRB should immediately solicit public input and act with full transparency to restore them.
Contact: Kalina Newman (202) 637-5018