On the picket line

Solidarity with Philadelphia sanitation workers 

Even though trash has been piling up on Philadelphia streets during this steamy summer, there’s acknowledgment between city officials and the sanitation workers’ union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 427 of District Council 33, that it’s because many workers have been calling out sick because of COVID-19. Some have tested positive; others have been quarantining due to on-the-job exposure; others don’t have reliable childcare. Or there may just be more household trash now. 

Juliana Feliciano Reyes pointed out in an Aug. 4 Philadelphia Inquirer article that the workers were fighting for hazard pay and better protective equipment even before the pandemic. But now people are acting in solidarity with them — randomly passing out water as trucks come by, buying T-shirts to help workers purchase protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and posting signs supporting them. 

Reyes observed, “It’s a sign of how the narrative around work has shifted, especially during the pandemic. Americans have been witnessing the reality faced by many workers — low wages, few protections — as those risking their lives on the job speak out about unsafe working conditions.” 

She added, “Sanitation workers in particular have been at the forefront of this moment. Like their counterparts in Philadelphia, workers have protested in Pittsburgh and in Raleigh, N.C. In New Orleans, sanitation workers have been on strike for nearly three months. The Black Lives Matter uprisings have only bolstered the efforts, as many sanitation workers are Black men.”

California workers demand testing before Disney parks open

The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, an alliance of 12 unions representing 17,000 workers at Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Calif., has been carrying on a struggle for months over safety measures for its members who were furloughed March 13. It sent Gov. Newsom a compelling letter protesting the July 17 reopening of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. That has since been delayed indefinitely. 

Disney did agree to certain ground rules — two weeks sick pay for confirmed cases of COVID-19, though workers have to apply for state disability after that; workers must conduct a daily at-home coronavirus assessment with a thermometer supplied by Disney; members who must work within 6 feet of visitors will be provided a plastic face shield. (Orange County Register, June 25)

But the company refuses to do daily testing for cast members, claiming, “The existing COVID-19 testing is not viable as a screening tool and not recommended by the [Food and Drug Administration] to be used in this way,” according to Disney Labor Relations Director Bill Pace. 

But, as an Aug. 3 Daily Beast article points out, that’s totally opposite the testing regime used in the National Basketball Association’s Bubble at Disney World in Orlando. Players and select staff are given daily COVID-19 tests that can catch and contain any outbreaks; so far they’ve been very effective. While not commenting on the NBA Bubble, another Disney spokesperson noted, “We’ve adopted new protocols for face coverings, health screenings, cleaning and disinfecting, training and more.” 

Meanwhile a select number of “veteran members” returned to their jobs July 9 in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney District, an outdoor shopping and dining complex, even though they are uncertain about their safety. One District worker has tested positive since the reopening, according to Andrea Zinder, president of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 324, which represents Downtown Disney employees. The worker began self-isolating after receiving the news on July 24. 

The situation calls for the longtime union slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Workers at nonprofit join union Aug. 5 

Staff at the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center joined the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union on Aug. 5. When the CPC Center requested voluntary recognition from management, it agreed to move forward with the process. “We believe in unity and equity and have dedicated our careers to serving and fighting for justice,” said representatives of the CPC Center Union. “We believe that unionizing will help uphold the CPC Center’s values and commitment to empowering and strengthening communities of all backgrounds across the nation.” The CPC Center states that it works to “identify and develop solutions to build a more just, equitable and resilient nation.” (NPEU, Aug. 5) 

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