Where We’re Active
Always Essential is working people, activists, and organizations who are coming together in cities, counties, states, and at the federal level to put essential workers first and build lasting change.
The pandemic and economic crisis have exposed the compounding risks placed upon essential workers. Working people are risking their health and safety every day in hospitals, grocery stores, warehouses, farms, and in so many other sectors. They are too often working for less than $15 an hour, still lacking the protective equipment they need, or lack basics like paid sick time, health insurance, or any guarantee of economy security, or the freedom to join together in a union.
The workers declared “essential” during the pandemic have always been essential, yet most have been perpetually denied the basics of working in a safe place where they are respected and living a life where they and their communities can thrive.
Essential workers of every race and background, across the country, are the glue holding our country together. They keep us fed, clean, safe, educated, and healthy. They are truly essential—today, tomorrow, and always.
From Washington, D.C., to state legislatures and city halls, and from board rooms to stock rooms, we’ve come together to launch dynamic campaigns across the country, with essential workers and committed organizations leading the efforts to win.
In states like Minnesota, New York, and Ohio—and at the federal level, Always Essential and its coalition of partners and working people are introducing legislation with the aim of securing crucial policies like an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, workplace health and safety standards, and further workplace protections.
At the federal level, we are continuing to push for an essential workers bill of rights framework to be included in legislation aimed at protecting essential workers.
Ohio- Justice for Migrant Women and their coalition partners are engaging at the local and state level. Essential Ohio has 4 city-level resolution wins supporting an Essential Worker Bill of Rights and most recently sent a letter to Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health around prioritization of vaccines for essential workers.
New York– introduced statewide legislation already this month. NY Heroes Act includes essential worker bill of rights, and some specific health & safety stuff that other states may not be able to pass. Led by the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN-NY), Make the Road, and New York Communities for Change.
Minnesota- UFCW is driving legislation around health and safety in MN. Additionally, AG Keith Ellison is pursuing lawsuits to demonstrate the lack of safety inspectors in order to pave the way for workers and worker representatives to temporarily take on the work of inspecting worksites to ensure safe standards are upheld.
Washington, DC- After winning $6 million for DC workers excluded from federal stimulus, DC JWJ is moving to expand protections for essential workers legislatively.
Additional legislation eventually to be introduced in the following states: OH, MN
In December 2020 Always Essential partner released a report on 12/16 with the Private Equity Stakeholder project focused on taxpayer subsidized evictions during the pandemic. This report highlights corporate landlords and their billionaire CEO’s who took in federal COVID relief subsidies yet continued to pursue evictions during the crisis.
The Always Essential corporate team plans to increase pressure on corporate landlords and other companies like Amazon who specifically were complicit in the enabling of the white supremacists and the politicians they support.
As the vaccine rollout continues, Always Essential wants to ensure equitable vaccine access for essential workers, as we call on employers to incentivize vaccinations by: providing paid time off, flexible work hours, and cash incentives for vaccinations. Additionally, we’re calling on employers to cover the costs of healthcare and paid time off for employees who develop side effects after vaccination.
Examples of current and recent bargaining efforts include:
Always Essential and its partners are supporting and closely engaging with workers who walked out at George’s Poultry Processing in protest of the company’s lack of COVID protections. Citing specific concerns and photographic evidence of a lack of social distancing and PPE, the workers are paving the way for what’s possible in poultry and meatpacking plants around the country. Local community engagement is led by Venceremos.
The Puerto Rico campaign is hoping to enact a major labor reform that allows us to expand organizing rights, raise the minimum wage, enable sectoral wage setting, and prosecute employer abuse in Puerto Rico. The campaign hopes to create a model of how to organize non-union sectors of the economy through creative innovative legislation, deep on the ground organizing of workers, as part of a broader campaign to challenge unfair tax and subsidy policies that hobble the economy, hurt workers and benefit corporations and the super-rich.
Virginia Beach Waste Management (sanitation workers) organized a strike on August 19, 2020 demanding hazard pay and calling out institutional racism. This Black-led worker action was a response to the Police and Fire departments, both overwhelmingly white, receiving hazard pay bonus for working during coronavirus. These workers won a $1,500 hazard pay bonus for all Public Works and Public Utilities workers, won the firing of racist bosses, secured $3 million for purchasing of new equipment along with an entirely new wage scale resulting in average of $3,500 raise to level the playing field after years of racist neglect. The newly-appointed Black City Manager, Patrick Duhaney, proved to be open to regular meetings with the workers and executed swift changes. This has created a huge tidal wave of momentum for workers organizing across the city and region.
In the poultry sector, UFCW has been active supporting workers in getting the protections they need. The counties in Minnesota, Iowa or Nebraska that were red with COVID-19 were meat processing facilities. Slowing down production and winning mobile clinics have lowered the spread drastically and now those counties are the MOST under control in those states. UFCW also leading an on-going organizing drive in Nebraska, centered on essential poultry worker demands.
Massachusetts Teachers Association in statewide negotiations over re-opening, incorporating the demands of essential workers who parent their students in a common good campaign.