It is expected that Governor Cuomo will announce the Phase 1 opening of construction and manufacturing in upstate NY on May 15th. There will be strict protocols to protect the workers. Some essential jobs in New York City that were shutdown started up last week and our members are starting to return to work. We anticipate non-essential construction to open up in NYC two weeks later on June 1st. Members on temporary layoff will begin to be called back, including furlough replacements to complete their 26 weeks.
The Employment Committee has come to an agreement that if a worker who was temporarily laid off is called back and does not want to come back at that moment they will be given a two week grace period. If that employee still does not want to come back after the two weeks, the temporary layoff will become a permanent layoff giving up their right to recall with the employer. However, you would be deemed unemployed and must be registered and available with the Employment Department to continue to collect unemployment and to have your medical intact. This would also apply to furlough replacements who would forfeit the remainder of their 26 week guarantee if they choose not to go back to work when they are called from a temporary layoff.
The JIB will appoint an ombudsman to handle and review special cases for those who cannot risk coming back to work. The two week grace period will also apply to regular job calls from the Employment Department for those who have been on a regular layoff for the past few weeks or months. We will need to man the jobs as the work opportunity begins to return. If after the two week period a member on a regular layoff is still not willing to take a call, without specific medical reasons or falling under a program like Paid Family Leave or Paid Sick Leave, then they will be deemed unavailable. That could impact eligibility for your unemployment and medical benefits. I believe the majority of our members want to get back to work and want to know that going to work won’t compromise their safety or health and that of their families.
We are in uncharted waters but if we pay attention and follow the protocols we limit the risk. Thousands of members have been working on essential sites since this pandemic started and we have been fortunate in limiting the impact on our health. Protect yourselves, use common sense, wear the PPE, and don’t take risks both on the jobs and coming to work and going home.
Finally, we will be holding the General Membership meeting with a limited agenda on Thursday. Same protocols as last month: limited, spaced-out seating; masks, gloves, temperature checks. There will be a required secret ballot vote on the necessary adjustment to the working assessment. Inspectors will be at the gates with ballots for those who can’t get in given the limitations on the size of meetings. We are limiting the meeting to 90, with 30 inside, 30 outside on the side, and 30 in the front of the hall. If you show up you can vote even if you can’t get in, and again, if you don’t need to be there then don’t come. I appreciate the support of this membership. The difficult steps we are taking and the difficult decisions being made are both necessary and in the best interests of all of our members.
Brothers and sisters, we will get through this and while it continues to be a challenge, our commitment to one another is our strength and together we will prevail, all while protecting our standards and every benefit that we have as members of this great union. We are truly blessed.