Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.
When The Strand alerted employees it was reopening on June 22, managers sent re-hired workers a three-page safety plan ahead of their return to the iconic Greenwich Village bookstore. But multiple unionized employees said they quickly found that many of the safeguards listed in the plan — including social distancing, occupancy limits, and plastic barriers — were not being enforced or properly implemented.
“It’s kind of a joke,” Will Bobrowski, 40, an employee of The Strand for nearly 18 years and a UAW Local 2179 shop steward said of the plastic barriers. “You’re standing at a desk, people can approach you from the left side, the right side, and your one little piece acrylic in front of you — it doesn’t really do anything.”
While many of the smaller issues were quickly addressed, it took nearly five weeks and many hours of union members conducting inspections and petitioning management to finally get more robust plastic barriers installed at all staffed workstations, union leaders said.
The Strand experience underscores workplace safety challenges as the city slowly reopens — and also highlights differences between union and non-union workforces in dealing with management amid the pandemic.