Recommendations for “Essential” Workers

States vary depending on which businesses and work sites are considered “essential” and must remain open, and which are considered “non-essential” and are either closed or moved to virtual settings. Check with your state’s guidelines here.

Essential workers are defined broadly as workers who must continue to report to work and maintain open hours for business due to their significant nature in aiding the community (e.g., health care, grocery, gas stations).

All essential workers are significantly more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 due to their frequent contact with others. As a result, any IWW member who is deemed an essential worker should work with their organizing committee or, in cases where none exists, agitate amongst their fellow workers to ensure they have the following:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
    • Disposable gloves to reduce contact with surfaces or items that may contain COVID-19.
    • Facial masks to protect from coughing, sneezing, and interacting orally with COVID-19. N95 masks are best, but cotton facial masks have also been effective at cutting down the risk of COVID-19.
    • Enforced social distancing between customers/patients and other workers. A six-foot rule is the stated guideline by the CDC to cut down on the risk of contracting COVID-19. While not all workplaces can effectively enforce this rule as well (e.g., in fast food restaurants), mandating some procedure for movements and transition in the workplace is critical.
    • Hand sanitizer that can be used freely by either customers/patients or workers. In most workplaces, extended hand washing is difficult after every interaction. However, WHO guidelines for hand sanitizers are fairly easy to make at home with simple ingredients.

Check our guideline for “essential” workers, broken down by Industrial Unions, for more information for specific industry guidelines and recommendations.

Your Rights at Work

Section 502 of the National Labor Relations Act states:

Nothing in this Act [chapter] shall be construed to require an individual employee to render labor or service without his consent, nor shall anything in this Act [chapter] be construed to make the quitting of his labor by an individual employee an illegal act; nor shall any court issue any process to compel the performance by an individual employee of such labor or service, without his consent; nor shall the quitting of labor by an employee or employees in good faith because of abnormally dangerous conditions for work at the place of employment of such employee or employees be deemed a strike under this Act [chapter].

If you believe that your health and well-being are threatened by exposing yourself to your workplace, you are protected under this section to do the following:

  1. Explain the health conditions to your employer and document the interaction. Fully outline what issues can arise without proper precautions on their end to protect you and your fellow workers on the job.
  2. If nothing changes, explain to your employer that you cannot continue to risk your health and well-being without proper procedures to protect yourself. Explain fully that you will not be able to render your services at work for a time being until they have remedied this situation.
  3. Be clear and direct that you are not engaging in a strike, but that you are refusing unsafe working conditions due to the possible spread of COVID-19 at your workplace.
  4. Explain verbally or in writing when you are leaving work and when you will be returning.

Guide for Unemployed/Laid Off IWW Members

Many of our fellow workers have lost stable employment due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The federal government recently passed a stimulus package that will be sent out to all US citizens who have paid taxes during 2018. The payment scale is broken down in this way.

If you made less than $75,000 in 2018, you will receive a one-time check of $1,200. For every $100 after that, the payment is reduced by $5. If you make more than $99,000, you will not receive a check. A rough guide of this looks as follows:

Your IncomeYour Check

For couples filing jointly, the income levels are doubled, as are the checks based on income.

For every dependent under the age of 17 that you reported in 2018, you will receive an additional payment of $500.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that checks will be made available as a direct deposit, if one has already been set up from previous tax years, within three weeks (Be advised: this is at best a guess). If you have not set up a direct deposit for refund checks in previous years, a check will be mailed to the last address where you filed your taxes. This process will take longer to process than a direct deposit, and it is uncertain at this time how long that would take.

If you have already filed for unemployment in your state, you will receive an additional $600/week for up to four months. These funds are in addition to the unemployment benefits that your state already provides.

These funds are administered by your state’s unemployment offices and will take additional time to process. States that have been affected by natural disasters in the recent past will have a better system in place to process these funds, due to the system set up with the federal government. If you are concerned about the processing time for your additional unemployment benefits, please contact your state’s unemployment office.

*Note for college students*

If you were claimed as a dependent, you are ineligible to receive these funds. You do not currently qualify for tuition refund and cannot qualify for rent forgiveness, according to this law.

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