Always Essential is a campaign of working people, activists, and organizations joining together to transform what’s possible for essential workers — especially those in low-wage sectors who are disproportionately Black and other workers of color. We are working in cities, counties, states, and at the federal level to put essential workers first and build the lasting change we want to see.



Monday, March 14th, 2022 

There’s No Going Back to Normal for Essential Workers in Year Three of Pandemic

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From the farmworkers to the supermarket clerks, the nurses and hospital staff, to the delivery drivers, domestic, and warehouse workers, working people have always been essential to a functioning society and economy, but COVID has laid bare their vital roles like never before. 

For the last two years, essential workers risked their health and safety to fuel our economy and keep our communities safe and fed. They’ve allowed us to survive this pandemic. Yet, as they served on the frontlines, not only did our nation’s leaders fail time and again to keep essential workers safe, but they left workers out of the process when crafting the very policies supposed to protect them. If that, along with being subjected to long hours and increased health risks, weren’t enough, essential workers bore witness to skyrocketing corporate profits (at companies like Amazon and elsewhere) and astronomical CEO compensation. 

It’s no wonder record numbers of workers are rising up, taking action, and demanding change across America. Recognizing their newfound leverage, essential workers have increasingly mobilized to ensure they have a voice in the decision-making process for workplace health and safety policies for the duration of the pandemic and beyond.

In Harris County, Texas, organizations representing essential workers from multiple sectors – domestic workers, janitors, construction workers, airport staff, retail workers, and others – joined forces to advocate for essential worker representation in policymaking. Essential workers in these sectors are grossly underpaid, uninsured, without paid leave or secure housing, and disproportionately women, immigrants, Black and other workers of color. In a monumental victory for workers in December, Harris County Commissioners passed the nation’s first Essential Workers Board comprised entirely of frontline workers. The new Board gives workers a voice in determining workplace health and safety policies and sets a strong standard for similar initiatives across America. 

Let’s also not forget this is a campaign year. Essential workers across America deserve to know whether those seeking public office truly have their backs. Candidates must also do more than talk about the evils of corporate greed. They must be willing to take meaningful action to hold corporate America accountable, which requires using every tool at their disposal to pass pro-worker legislation such as the PRO Act, a minimum wage increase, and citizenship for immigrants essential workers.

See below for a rundown of the latest efforts in the fight for improved health and safety standards, better pay, and working conditions for essential workers.


Congress Passes Bill To Shore Up The Postal Service Without Cutting Back On Delivery

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On Tuesday, March 8th, Congress passed legislation that would shore up the U.S. Postal Service and ensure six-day-a-week mail delivery, sending the bill to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

"The post office usually delivers for us, but today we're going to deliver for them," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Last month, the House approved the bill, 342-92, with all Democrats and most Republicans voting for it. On Tuesday, the Senate sent it to Biden's desk on a 79-19 vote.

GMG Union Reaches Fair Contract After First Open-Ended Strike in Digital Media History

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On March 6th, the GMG Union Bargaining Committee announced it reached a deal with G/O Media, pending WGAE Council approval and a ratification vote by members. After four days of picketing in the first open-ended strike in digital media, management has acknowledged the strength and demands of our members.

To this end, G/O Media agreed to raise salary minimums, severance, and parental leave; maintain our healthcare while requiring it to be trans-inclusive, and ensure annual increases for our Unit members.

Healthcare Workers at Country Doctor Community Health Centers Form First-Ever Union

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United in their determination to better advocate for themselves and their patients, the health care workers at Country Doctor Community Health Centers (CDCHC) announced they have unionized by joining SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. 

“When so many employees of color have left this clinic frustrated and disappointed, it’s no surprise that our clinic is struggling. That reputation has a real impact, and it’s finally time to start living up to our promise of social justice,” said Justice Wornum, Clinic Operations Coordinator at Country Doctor. “This victory is yet another reflection of so many coworkers standing up and saying ‘You know what? I’m not going to sit here and let my goodwill be exploited.’ We can only meet the full needs of our patients when we no longer have to sacrifice our dignity and sanity in the process. Together we can finally create a plan to move forward rather than coping with another year of two-week solutions.”

“I really and truly believe that this is going to move our organization in a positive and meaningful direction,” said Sheena Wong, an RN at Carolyn Downs. “This whole movement came out of a dark time for our organization when we felt like we weren’t being heard, and now we have a clear and powerful voice! Now we have the incredible prospect of creating our union to reflect our values.”

New York Times Tech Workers Vote To Unionize

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Tech workers at the New York Times voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing with the NewsGuild Thursday night. The 600-member Times Tech Guild will be the largest union of tech workers with bargaining rights in the country, per the NewsGuild.

It becomes the third major union to form among NYT workers, in addition to its editorial workers' union and a union representing Wirecutter, The Times' consumer reviews website.

"With this election result, the hundreds of us who work on New York Times websites and apps will finally have a real seat at the table and a meaningful say in our pay, benefits, and working conditions," said the Times Tech Guild Organizing Committee.

Excluded Workers Shut Down Major NYC Bridges, Demand More Support From State

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On March 8th, immigrant workers in New York City left out of government pandemic relief shut down traffic on the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. The demands of excluded workers and advocates include $3 billion added to the Excluded Workers Fund and creating a permanent unemployment insurance program. 

"While so many of my friends and neighbors were able to access the fund, so many others never got a chance because of how quickly the fund ran out of money. We marched so that the thousands of workers who didn't get it can finally get the relief they need. We need to refund the Excluded Workers Fund and work to create a permanent solution by passing Excluded No More," said Victoria Rivera, a board member at New York Communities for Change.

Laborers' Local 79, a union representing more than 10,000 workers in the construction industry, came out in support of the Excluded No More proposal on Tuesday, saying it would help close the gap between union and non-union contractors while making it easier for construction workers to organize freely on the job without fear of retaliation.

"We believe, that to end practices like this, the abuse of workers, the exploitation of workers in our industry, in construction, we need to fight for something like the excluded workers fund, so that workers, when they stand up they know that there's something behind them," said Tafadar Sourob, Organizer, Labor 79.

On March 15th, immigrant and excluded workers across New York State will embark on a 150-mile journey from NYC to Albany to call for an end to exclusion.

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President Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Working People During State of the Union Address

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During his State of the Union address, President Biden reiterated his commitment to improving the lives of working people across the country. He emphasized the successes of his first year, such as signing the American Rescue Plan and the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. Biden also took the opportunity to lay out his strategy to lower costs for working families and build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. In his words, he called on businesses to “Lower your costs, not your wages.” 

Minneapolis Teachers Strike to Demand a 'Living Wage' and More

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On March 8th, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals went on strike for the safe and stable schools our students and communities deserve. They are fighting for more competitive salaries for teachers, a starting salary of $35,000 for most education support professionals, better conditions to recruit and retain educators of color, and enough staff to address students’ mental health needs.

Megan Peterson, a first-grade teacher, demonstrated in southern Minneapolis on Tuesday morning while her son, a first-grader, stayed home with her husband. “It is not something any of us want to be doing right now,” she said. “But this is important for me as a parent,” she added. “This is important for me as a teacher. And it’s important for me, as a resident of Minneapolis, for me to make sure my kids are taken care of.”

“We are on strike for safe and stable schools, we’re on strike for systemic change, we’re on strike for our students, the future of our city and the future of Minneapolis public schools,” Greta Cunningham, president of the teachers’ chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said Tuesday outside a south Minneapolis elementary school where more than 100 union members and supporters launched a morning picket line in freezing weather.

NJ Gov Murphy Proposes $53m Fund To Aid Undocumented Immigrants

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Another relief fund could be coming for undocumented immigrants under a plan New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy proposed Tuesday in his budget speech

The governor is seeking $53 million to provide one-time direct payments to residents who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and did not receive pandemic stimulus aid. If approved by lawmakers, the program would provide a $500 benefit to roughly 80,000 households, state officials said. 

This comes just weeks after the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund — intended to provide cash relief to undocumented immigrants and others ineligible for federal pandemic aid — received nearly double the number of applications the fund was initially intended to handle. According to budget documents, state officials expect to dole out nearly $60 million to as many as 35,000 applicants, $20 million more than initially proposed.

Candle Factory Workers Weren’t Trained for Emergencies Before Deadly Kentucky Tornado Collapse, Lawsuit Claims; Company Accused of “Cover-Up.”

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Eight survivors of the powerful December tornado that tore through Mayfield, Ky, and the candle factory owned by Mayfield Consumer Products, have now filed a verified class-action civil complaint against Mayfield Consumer Products. The plaintiffs, who were among the 110 people working at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory on the night of December 10th, claim they were threatened with termination if they left and accuse the company of inadequate emergency preparation. Nine workers died.

According to the suit, Mayfield Consumer Products "showed flagrant indifference to the rights" of employees "with a subjective awareness that such conduct will result in human death and/or bodily injuries.”

Plaintiff John Lawson, a recent Nevada transplant, had only been on the job one week when the storm hit. He claims to have told supervisors that if a similar storm were forecast in Nevada, workers would have been sent home to avoid the same type of tragic situation that would eventually befall the candle factory. His supervisor laughed and said, “Welcome to Kentucky,” according to the complaint.

The complaint also accuses Bob Ferguson, who served as a spokesperson for MCP in the aftermath of the tornadoes, of defaming several of the employees by publicly contradicting their claims about what happened at the factory.

DC Attorney Amos Jones said that "further investigation has revealed the depth of the liability and willful acts that cause these harms. Fifty hours of interviews and research compelled seven more victims to step up as Class Representatives on behalf of the more than 100 employees trapped that Friday night in their workplace. They have sworn under oath to the truthfulness of their claims on the complaint itself."


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