Union Counterproposal re Return to Office

June 9, 2021

Union Counterproposal to LSNYC Management

Throughout this pandemic we have persevered, pushed through, and found strength and support in our communities. We have continued to provide life-changing help to our clients and support and care for one another, supported our children through all of their learning challenges, and managed all of the necessities of everyday life during one of the darkest and hardest times in our history. Our colleagues of color have had particular challenges, as they have done this work and provided this care under the daily weight of systemic racism and violence.

The pandemic is not over, even if we wish it were. We unequivocally reject LSNYC management’s demand that staff return to the office on an enforced schedule beginning on July 6th, 2021. Any return must be voluntary and acknowledge the ongoing public health crisis; the trauma that our clients, communities, and staff have suffered; and the need for safe and appropriate office environments for everyone.

Some LSNYC staff have returned to the office, or are willing to do so, in some capacity and with varying degrees of frequency, but many others do not feel safe entering the offices and have continued to successfully work fully remotely. To those staff who have volunteered to assist with out-of-home work during this challenging time: we are thankful for your service, which is an act of solidarity that protects your fellow staff members who are not safe or comfortable going to the offices in person. This counter proposal seeks to support staff who wish to work in-office, whether on their own tasks or through the volunteer pilot project, while protecting the safety and mental health of staff who wish to continue working remotely.

In recognition of the broad availability of COVID vaccines and the readiness of some staff to return to the office as needed on a volunteer basis, as well as the continuing public health concerns, LSSA proposes that the existing voluntary pilot project be extended, with the following modifications:

  • Continued Full Remote Work Flexibility: Employees, at their discretion, may choose to work remotely or in the office. In-office work will continue to be subject to occupancy restrictions. 
  • Reception Coverage: 
    • Some clients may make in-person visits to LSNYC offices. Many reception services, such as looking up a client’s advocate, putting a client in touch with their advocate, and picking up and dropping off documents, can be done quickly. To ensure continuation of services and on-site client reception as needed, we agree to expand the pilot project to include reception coverage by volunteers. 
    • Reception areas present particular safety challenges in many of our offices. To ensure the safety of volunteers covering reception, prior to the implementation of this expansion, the local COVID committees will develop office-specific safety plans (pertaining to COVID-related issues such as masking, cleaning, social distancing, scheduling, compliance with these safety plans, etc.), to be adjusted as the COVID committees may deem necessary.
  • Office Occupancy Limits: 
    • Defining Occupancy: Visitors, clients, and all employees must be calculated as part of occupancy. 100% of occupancy is defined as the number of staff who were based at a given location in March 2020 prior to COVID closures.
    • Interim Occupancy, 20%: Local COVID committees may adjust local occupancy limits as appropriate, to an amount not to exceed the greater of the current occupancy limits or 20% of the number of staff who worked at each location prior to closure. 
    • During the interim period until offices pass reinspection as set forth below, the citywide and local COVID committees, and the health-screening and contact-tracing subcommittee, will, as appropriate, discuss implementation of improved scheduling logistics.
    • Following MicroEcologies Signoff, Occupancy, 50%: Occupancy limits for each office location may be increased to 50% of the number of staff who worked at each location prior to closure after:
      • Each office is reinspected by MicroEcologies and a union representative, and 
      • MicroEcologies confirms that necessary health and safety measures have been effectively implemented, and 
      • Each office develops an ongoing air-safety monitoring and maintenance plan.  
    • For projects with multiple office locations: all locations within a project must pass inspection as above before occupancy limits at any location within that project may be increased to 50%; exceptions to this policy may be granted by the union. 
    • Masks will continue to be required in the office at all times: Though CDC and NYS guidance now permit vaccinated individuals to go without masks in many indoor spaces, anyone using the office must wear a mask due to:
      • The complicated nature of inquiring about, disclosing, and confirming vaccination status, 
      • The uncertainty regarding variants as well as “breakthrough” and asymptomatic COVID infections, and 
      • The number of high-risk individuals among our staff and client communities.
    • Duration: Remains in effect until modified, to be reassessed September 30.