By David LeGrande, Healthy Work Campaign – Labor Outreach Coordinator-Strategist
In 2020, the Oakland, California teachers’ union successfully negotiated rigorous COVID-19 protections in 100 schools throughout the City of Oakland. Their success, the product of an aggressive plan to ensure negotiated COVID-19 contractual language was implemented by the City of Oakland, targeted the development of a comprehensive education, identification, and resolution program focused on the prevention of worker and student exposure to COVID-19 when school opens.
Labor Notes (@LaborNotes) posted Shelby Ziesing and John Green’s story How Oakland Teachers Took Control of Our Return to School on July 26, 2021
The union’s activity, led by and inclusive of all levels of the union — officers, stewards, and rank-and-file members — demonstrated that the identification and resolution of COVID-19 occupational safety and health workplace design issues and hazards was essential to achieving improved working conditions and safer and healthier workplaces. Through the development and implementation of a comprehensive education, identification, and resolution action plan, the union was able to ensure their members would be protected from COVID-19 exposure as well as building a more unified membership. Clearly, the plan established by the teachers’ union was essentail in achieving immediate and future collective bargaining victories.
Focused upon achieving similar improvements in working conditions, particularly those targeting work organization/occupational stress issues, the Center for Social Epidemiology has created the Healthy Work Campaign (HWC). The HWC model focuses upon education, worker and union involvement, identification, and resolution of occupational stress hazards. Use of the provided tools and resources can assist workers/unions in developing activities targeting job stress resolution and prevention. Going forward, achieved victories with represented employers could be translated into negotiating improved collective bargaining agreements as well as union strengthening and organizing efforts. The HWC team looks forward to working with interested workers/union activists in mutual efforts to reduce and prevent member occupational stress.
For more information on the Healthy Work Campaign, please go to healthywork.org.