Employers will soon seek to resume pre-Covid operations. Guild leaders must take an active role in advocating for a safe return to the workplace and in establishing ongoing procedures to ensure the health of those we represent. Guild leaders need to plan for this and be prepared to negotiate over issues related to workplace reopening.
The details of your response to this challenge should be guided by circumstances at your workplace, how your community is responding to the pandemic and the concerns of your members. Many Guild contracts contain language requiring the employer to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. These contract terms can be used to require employers to develop appropriate reopening procedures.
Below is a list of issues leaders should address, but it’s also crucial to involve members in the development of the topics that will be pursued, creating support and collaborating on the implementation of appropriate procedures. Locals should utilize Health and Safety committees to develop site-specific safety plans and to discuss concerns on an ongoing basis with management.
It is important that workers take all necessary precautions to protect their health and safety.
Issues to address
1. Timing and criteria for resumption of normal operations
a. Allow continued work from home when possible. This is still the safest option
and no one should be forced to return to the office.
b. Reopening should not occur until the community experiences reduced infection
and death rates for at least 14 consecutive days, and the community has sufficient health care capacity, diagnostic testing capacity, and contact tracing capacity.
c. A workplace risk assessment should be conducted with participation from the
union. A workplace COVID-19 Safety Plan should be developed, which should include a plan for resurgence of the virus that may occur in the workplace or community.
d. Workplace precautions and cleaning and disinfection must be in place.
e. When possible, reopening should be phased in.
2. Workplace safety
When reopening the office, multiple factors need to be addressed to ensure worker safety and reduce the risk of infection:
a. Work from home should be encouraged unless the work cannot be performed
b. Workers should have the ability to turn down assignments they deem exposes
them to Covid-19 risks.
c. Social distancing – Workspaces need to be arranged to minimize contact
between other individuals, including occupancy limits in work areas, conference rooms, and other common areas including break rooms, restrooms, and lobby areas.
d. Staggered shifts – days of work, work hours and frequency of office visits should
be arranged to minimize contact with other people.
e. The employer should provide PPE, including masks and gloves and their use
should be required in common areas. (There is still a shortage of N-95 respirators, even for healthcare. If N95 respirators are required, the employer will have to comply with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard, which includes a written respiratory protection plan, medical evaluation, fit-testing, and training).
f. Hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol content should be available in common areas,
restrooms, and individual offices.
g. Time should be allowed for handwashing after contact with potentially
contaminated materials/surfaces. Periodic handwashing breaks should be required.
h. Workplace cleaning and sanitizing should include daily cleaning and sanitizing all common areas and commonly touched items including keyboards, computer mice, copy machine controls, door handles, desktops, light switches and faucets. Disinfectants should be approved by the EPA as effective against SARS-CoV-2.
i. Shared equipment and workstations should be avoided. If they are used, they
should be disinfected after each use.
j. Workplace cleaning and sanitation needs to be considered a joint responsibility
of everyone, regardless of job title or position in the company hierarchy.
k. The employer must provide necessary, ergonomic work equipment for workers
in alternative work locations.
3. Workplace screening and record-keeping
a. Workers, managers and visitors need to be screened prior to any visit to the
workplace on whether they exhibit any Covid-19 symptoms or have had a recent (past 14-day) exposure to a person who is positive for the virus or suspected of having Covid-19. Those with symptoms should be advised to consult with a healthcare provider and should self-isolate for 14 days, with pay.
b. Before entering the workplace, all workers and visitors should undergo a
temperature check. Those with fevers should be sent home.
c. Records should be kept on all instances of workers reporting Covid-19 symptoms
or fevers, with notice, including identification, provided to the union and to health authorities.
d. In the event of a positive test, fever or reporting of Covid-19 symptom, the
employer should initiate contact tracing, to determine who the worker has been in contact with in the previous 14 days. Other workers who have been exposed to this worker should be notified and required to self-quarantine, with pay.
4. Expand benefits related to Covid-19
a. Workers should be provided free Covid-19 testing.
b. Workers with Covid-19 and those unable to work because of self-quarantine
should suffer no loss of pay, reduction in sick leave or paid time off.
c. Employers should provide free Covid-19 vaccinations for workers and their
immediate families once one is developed.
d. Employers should provide expanded EAP and mental health programs for workers dealing with stress and mental health issues related to Covid-19.
e. Employers should provide hazard pay to those workers unable to work from
f. Ensure Employers comply with the requirements of the CARES Act and the FFCRA which, among other provisions, provide expanded Covid related medical, sick leave and family leave for workers. (Details of these requirements are in an accompanying document.)
5. Accommodate individual circumstances
a. The employer should provide work/travel alternatives for workers reliant on
public transit and flexible commuting times to avoid crowded trains.
b. The employer should accommodate workers with childcare and child education
responsibilities or care of sick relatives resulting from Covid-19.
c. The employer should make accommodations for at-risk workers and those that
live with at-risk individuals.
6. Workplace buildings and facilities
a. Local leaders should work with employers to ensure HVAC systems are evaluated by a certified HVAC professional, preferably by a union Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Bureau (TABB) technician, prior to building reoccupancy. HVAC deficiencies should be addressed prior to reoccupancy and needed modifications made in consultation with HVAC design professionals and Industrial Hygiene professionals to ensure proper air flow, sufficient fresh air, filtration, and other measures that will minimize the spread of Covid-19 contamination through air recirculation.
b. Special procedures need to be taken for workers who come in contact with the public. Those working at public counters should be protected by plexiglass barriers, but an assessment must be made by a Certified Industrial Hygienist to ensure that barriers do not impede air flow in a way that may trap potentially contaminated air. Those required to go on the road should be provided sufficient unused equipment to protect themselves during multiple customer/news source contacts.
c. Workplaces in buildings that are shared with other tenants should have safety
procedures to limit exposure to Guild-represented workers.
d. The employer should provide refrigerators and clean utensils for workers who must bring their own meals to work because of the closure of restaurants and food service operations.
7. The local should regularly review the procedures with management to deal with changing events and make adjustments as the situation warrants.
8. Special issues
a. The local needs to develop internal procedures for dealing with non-compliant individuals that avoids the use of employer discipline.
b. The local needs to be alert for employer attempt to shift the responsibility for worker safety onto the worker.
Local leaders will also need to be aware of any guidelines or limitations state or local government imposes related to reopening workplaces. Leaders should familiarize themselves with those rules and identify any enforcement authority so that they will know where to turn with compliance problems.
Government guidance is constantly shifting, and not all of it may be protective. Knowing and enforcing any protective state requirements may help to lessen the number of issues over which local leaders need to negotiate. Regulations should be viewed as the minimum for worker protection, not the maximum.
TNG’s staff is available to assist local leaders in developing specific proposals.
Other Resources & References:
Here are several links from that may be of use in talking with members and employers.
Additional resources are available from TNG.
CDC Guidance of workplace reopening https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/workplace-decision- tree.pdf
CDC general guidance on reopening https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html
CDC guidance for businesses: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
Here are standards promoted by entertainment unions: https://www.multichannel.com/news/unions-propose-covid-19-news-worker- guidelines?utm_source=Daily+Lab+email+list&utm_campaign=74a7696dad- dailylabemail3&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d68264fd5e-74a7696dad-396562587
A well researched and thoughtful article on workplace precautions: https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/amid-the-coronavirus-crisis-a-regimen- for-reentry