Federal COVID leave and other programs like PUA have expired, just as the Omicron variant began to surge. Workers need time off because they are sick, and working parents need flexibility if their kid’s school is remote. This is a good time to talk about organizing in your workplace! Frontline workers have power and leverage, especially now, to demand safe and fair working conditions.
- Together with your coworkers, you have the right to ask for better policies on the job – this includes asking for a raise, or for more paid time off, or demanding better policies to keep everyone safe.
- You have the right to talk to coworkers about conditions, including pay, benefits, health and safety concerns.
- You have the right to form a union, but you don’t need to be in a union to be protected when raising issues on the job.
- Your rights are protected by the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act); this means you can’t be fired or retaliated against for making a demand with one or more coworkers.
- You have the right to strike and take other actions.
If you and your coworkers aren’t getting what you need, whether it’s enough sick days or any other issues, take action together. Steps you can take:
- You must talk to coworkers!
- You are protected under the law even if you talk to one other person about an issue before you raise it with a boss
- You have more leverage and power if you can get a lot of coworkers to join you.
- Talking to a boss about your own concern alone is not protected under the law, meaning that if you are retaliated against you can’t file with the NLRB
- Come up with list of demands
- Put demands in a letter or petition and give it to your boss, and try to get others to sign on
- If there is real concern about retaliation, you can do it in a way that doesn’t reveal all names.
- Consider presenting letter/petition as a group so the boss knows you are serious.
- Think about whether you want to go public with demands to put pressure on the employer – you can get support from unions and other groups
There’s a ton of info online about organizing, here are a few:
- Information on forming a union
- In Philly, these groups can also be contacted about organizing
- For restaurant workers:
- Restaurant Opportunities Center — 267-738-7440
- CRSH – Philadelphia Coalition For Restaurant Safety & Health — 267-571-6720
- Domestic workers have fewer protections than others, but PA Domestic Workers can help — 267-768-4002
The standard Philadelphia Sick Leave law is still in effect and your workplace is likely covered! This law requires 40 hours of sick leave per year. For workplaces with 10 or more workers, the sick leave must be paid; in smaller workplaces it can be unpaid. If your job is violating this law, you can file a complaint with the City’s Department of Labor.
Currently, certain health care workers can get Pandemic Paid Leave under a 2020 amendment to Philadelphia’s law if they get COVID, but some temporary paid leave laws for the pandemic have expired, like the federal law (the FFCRA), and Philadelphia’s Public Health Emergency Leave extensions from 2020 and 2021.
**Update: On March 3, 2022, Philadelphia City Council passed a new emergency sick leave bill that will guarantee up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for Philadelphia workers to recover from COVID-19; care for a sick family member or child whose school has closed; or take time off to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot. The bill applies to any employer with 25 or more workers. The bill has not yet been signed into law by the Mayor, but check back soon for more updates!**
Workers in Philadelphia who complain about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic are protected against retaliation under a law that workers and labor unions pushed through City Council. If you believe your job is not following Philadelphia Health Department public health orders, you can call 311 to make a complaint. If you are retaliated against for raising a pandemic health and safety issue with your employer, you can file a complaint here.
We the undersigned, are the [ABC company] workers committee. We are aware of 3 times that our coworkers have come to work since the start of the pandemic despite being ill because you denied them paid sick time. This puts us, our families, and our customers at risk.
Philadelphia requires paid sick leave for workplaces like ours with 10 or more workers. We demand a response within a week confirming that you will give us paid sick days in compliance with the law, give us an accounting of how many days we have accrued, and pay our coworkers who were denied paid sick in the past. If we don’t hear from you in a week, we will file a complaint with the City and go public.
You may not retaliate against us for sending you this letter, this is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
Signed, [NAMES of each worker]
A few of us have talked to you individually about our (pay/scheduling/health and safety issues, etc) but feel that our questions and concerns get brushed aside and ignored. Many of us have been here for years, but we have all been working through this pandemic in difficult circumstances with little support, keeping this business going. We deserve to be heard and treated with respect.
We need the following to do our jobs well: (a fair wage of x per hour; KN95 masks provided every x days; fixing the air conditioning in the kitchen; and give scheduling responsibility to manager x instead of manager y.) We expect an answer to this email address email@example.com within x days with your response to our very reasonable demands. If you do not reply we will take further action. Be aware that we are aware of our rights and retaliation against us is illegal.
Signed, the workers committee