To my brother and sister tradespeople and their families and friends,
You know what it’s like. Workers, young and old, standing shoulder to shoulder packed into the skip. One portajohn for 10+ people with a broken or empty hand sanitizer dispenser. No hand washing stations. And a virus that can spread like wildfire through seemingly healthy, asymptomatic people before resulting in complications, hospitalizations, and mortality. Our lungs are already damaged from constantly breathing in silica dust, exhaust, and all kinds of fumes, and those with healthy lungs who recover may still be left with lifelong respiratory issues due to scarring.
They say that building private luxury towers, upscale hotels, and office buildings for Fortune 500 companies is “essential work”, on par with the lifesaving work performed by health providers, caregivers, grocery clerks, and warehouse workers. Why are developers' investment properties being treated as if they were as sacred as human life? Contractors are using the broadest possible interpretation of the Executive Order and lobbying officials to keep their bottom line intact, but officials need to protect the public’s health by forcing contractors to comply with even stricter standards on every non-critical construction site and get state approval to continue their work.
We need leadership to step up and shut down unsafe worksites and force contractors to comply with higher standards for every non-critical construction site, before our state looks like Washington or New York. The governor must make the GC for luxury developments get state approval to continue their work. Workers should not have to make the impossible choice between working in unsafe conditions and receiving a paycheck. We need leaders to make the call and bear the weight of that decision.
Our four demands are clear:
Safe Working Conditions for All
↠ Strict health and safety standards and compliance for worksites that remain open.
↠ Hazard pay and paid sick leave for construction workers.
A Safety Net for All
↠ Financial support for workers who have been laid off, those unable to find work due to the pandemic, and those still out of work from the winter slow-down.
↠ Free childcare for those who need it during this time.
↠ Free testing, treatment, and healthcare for all.
↠ Suspend all rent, mortgage, utilities, loans, foreclosures, evictions, and parking enforcement.
You can take action and send an email to Pritzker with one click below.
If you are currently working on a site that you feel is unsafe, need assistance with childcare, have questions about the rent and mortgage strike, or anything else, please get in touch with us at our email, email@example.com (and also your BAs).
This is a complicated issue. It seems like half of the workforce wants to keep working if they are able to do so safely. The other half feel that that’s not physically possible, and think that this is about real-estate developers and contractors exerting their influence in order to keep accruing massive profits from our labor, and at our risk. It’s always been the case that we, the builders, absorb the most risks and hazards with our bodies. The guys in suits have always been able to work from home.
If your mind is split on these issues, you’re not alone. We’re like the energizer bunny, and we know that if we don’t work, we don’t get paid, so we show up in all sorts of states ready to get the job done. It’s normal for construction workers to push through, no matter what. Plus, if the crisis is going to peak in four to six weeks anyway, the option to take work while you still can is understandable. Nobody is eager to join the 6.6 million people already on unemployment.
But now is a moment to change what we think of as normal.
We must fight for a better way forward, one that does not force us to choose between making a living and staying alive. We need our leaders to shut down unsafe worksites, but the reality is that many of us cannot afford to miss a paycheck, which means that we need to fight for better conditions beyond the workplace. We need financial safety nets for out-of-work and laid off construction workers, and those who haven’t worked since the winter slow down. Our members, especially tradeswomen, need free childcare as schools and after-school programs remain closed. Workers should not have to suffer while the companies who rely on our labor get a bailout.
As we fight for our brothers and sisters in construction, we can fight for others outside of the trades well. This pandemic shows us that we’re all in this together. We can’t do our jobs from home, but we can fight for a rent and mortgage freeze and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. We can check in on our neighbors and retirees, spend time with our kids, and practice the kind of solidarity that unions have always done. The lives of the sick, vulnerable, and elderly should not have to be sacrificed for the economy, and certainly not for Chicago's speculative real estate market. We should not prioritize the profits of investors over the lives of human beings.
With love and solidarity,
Some construction workers in Chicago
Click here to send an email
What to do: Press the button below to send an email to Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Labor to demand that he limit construction to essential infrastructure projects.
What to say: Add your story to the message, or just add your trade and local number and send as-is.
Subject line: Use “#StopConstruction” (or similar).
Copy and paste the message below into Governor Pritzker’s contact form.
I am a [YOUR TRADE OR OCCUPATION] from local [YOUR LOCAL NUMBER AND CITY].
[For family members and supporters]
I am emailing on behalf of my [SISTER / BROTHER / MOTHER / FATHER / NEIGHBOR / FRIEND], a construction worker in [CITY AND STATE].
I'm writing on behalf of construction workers facing hazardous working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite Pritzker's claim on March 28th, construction workers are not able to protect themselves with social distance or proper handwashing on the job site.
I am demanding that the governor clarify and strengthen his order to limit construction to essential infrastructure, and declare all non-critical public infrastructure projects non-essential work. Construction on luxury towers, upscale hotels, office buildings, even schools, which will remain closed throughout this crisis, are non-essential. Contractors are using the broadest possible interpretation of the Executive Order and lobbying officials to keep their bottom line intact, and officials need to protect the public's health by refining and enforcing that order. Let the contactors do the right thing.
We need leadership to step up and shut down sites like Governors Cuomo and Inslee did in New York and Washington, before our state looks like theirs. Workers should not have to make the impossible choice between pulling in a paycheck while potentially exposing themselves and their families to a deadly virus, or doing their part to flatten the curve. We need leaders to make the call and bear the weight of the decision, so they don't have to.
The outbreak continues to claim lives every day, and cases double every three days in Illinois. Given unchangeable conditions on worksites, it seems like the question is not if but when COVID-19 will spread among construction workers and their families. The costs of continuing construction will become too great, unless you act swiftly. Blue-collar workers and their families who build our great cities and towns are going to pay the price. Across the country, some already have.
Construction workers want to work on things that matter, like roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals and health care facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. Otherwise, the most useful place for construction workers is at home with their families.
You've asked us, and we are letting you know. We are not able to safely do our jobs during this pandemic. Building private luxury developments is not essential work. We demand that you use your power to make strict restrictions and make contractors get state approval to continue work. Contractors and employers must give hazard pay to those actually deemed essential. We are telling you, the economic and moral impact of losing any more lives outweighs the economic impact of shutting down job sites.
Connect with us. Shoot us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org