Local 1088, representing more than 300 workers at the Ocean County Board of Social Services (OCBSS) in Ocean County, NJ, have been fighting for stronger work-from-home rules as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued into 2021.
At the outset of the pandemic last spring, OCBSS allowed for approximately 40% of staff to work from home. In early summer, OCBSS went back to 100% staffing, over the objections of the Union. As the pandemic worsened towards the end of 2020, CWA demanded that OCBSS reduce on-site staffing, as they had at the outset of the pandemic, in order to protect employees from the spread of COVID-19.
Despite several workers testing positive for the virus and fears of outbreaks among staff working close together, the OCBSS would not agree to more than 10-15% of staff working from home.
In addition, the local recently began bargaining over a successor agreement. 1088's bargaining committee has made it the main priority to reduce wage disparity between workers, as well as to reduce the cost of healthcare contributions.
With these deeply felt issues, Local 1088 has formed a mobilization committee to fight for health and safety on the job and their bargaining priorities. Members have been wearing red on Thursday, wearing buttons, demonstrating daily outside their worksites on their breaks, and they presented a petition to the OCBSS Director over their health and safety concerns. In addition to member signatures, it also included signatures and comments from Ocean County residents supporting their demand to allow more employees to work from home.
"Our members are mobilizing like crazy," said CWA Local 1088 President Patricia Self. " We continue to receive almost daily COVID exposure memos from management at OCBSS and our members are fighting hard for their safety, their families safety and the safety of the community. Our demonstrations grow a bit more each day across all of the various work sites."