SEIU Local 73 members at the Jewish Community Centers (JCC) of Chicago won a big settlement before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Earlier this year, JCC union members held an action at the height of the first Omicron surge to demand better COVID-19 protections. They donned “Respect us, protect us, pay us” masks to highlight the dangers of the pandemic, particularly as these SEIU Local 73 members worked in-person. Management subsequently threatened to discipline workers, pointing to a workplace rule that prohibited inappropriate attire that reflects negatively on the agency.
In response, SEIU Local 73 filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against JCC, stating the agency broke the law by threatening employees with discipline or discharge, in addition to maintaining a rule that limits workers’ rights. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found both claims to be accurate. The Board compelled the JCC to come to a settlement agreement with the union that requires them to notify employees that they will not threaten them with discipline or discharge or otherwise stop them from wearing the masks. Moreover, the agreement states that JCC will strike the aforementioned workplace rule from their official handbook.
“During the height of the Omicron surge, teachers were out of sick leave with no safety net in place to keep themselves or students safe. By coming together and demanding better from management with our masks, we won extra sick days for COVID. We were able to fight back and win against management restricting our right to wear these masks, and this is only the beginning,” said Sapier Weinglass, a teacher and steward from the JCC Beth Emet preschool.
This victory would not have been possible without the courageous members who stood up to management, took action and fought for better protections. SEIU Local 73 is dedicated to protecting the rights of our members and their workplace actions, from petition signing to union buttons and everything in between. All union workers should have the right to take part in workplace actions without the fear of retaliation or discipline from management.
Megan Grenard, a teacher and steward at the JCC Florence Heller preschool, echoes the importance of strength and resilience in the face of an employer that aims to punish rather than protect its workers: “When we took action to change COVID policies at our Early Childhood (EC) site, management tried to silence us by telling us it was unlawful to wear the masks. I feel supported and safe to take a stand and take action for change in my school because of the support of my fellow union members and SEIU Local 73.”