Return-to-Office Sparks Labor Complaint From AFL-CIO’s Own Staff

The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. union federation, is facing a labor complaint from its own employees over policies compelling them to return to the office.

The Washington-Baltimore News Guild filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the federation of violating federal labor law. The June 16 filing alleges that the AFL-CIO “has failed and refused to bargain in good faith” with the union over safety and health issues that stem from bringing staff back to the office.

The AFL-CIO is requiring workers to be vaccinated and in the office on July 6, unless they are on approved leave, according to a June 2 message viewed by Bloomberg News from the federation’s human-resources director.

In an emailed statement, the local guild said the AFL-CIO hadn’t addressed its employees’ return-to-office concerns on issues such as ventilation, masks, commuting, child care and health risks. “Instead of coming to the table and working with us to guarantee everyone’s safety, management has decided to ignore their own workers rights to negotiate,” said the group’s executive director, Cet Parks.

An AFL-CIO spokesperson declined to comment.

After a pandemic year that bifurcated the workforce between essential employees required to shoulder the risks of in-person labor and others laid off or allowed to telework, reopenings of pandemic-shuttered offices are bringing new conflicts among unionized and non-union workplaces alike.

Contentious Relationship

Employees of New York City rallied in May to demand a delay in their required return to the office. Hundreds of Google employees signed a petition last month urging that the company provide a transportation stipend for the San Francisco Bay Area child-care and education workers being summoned back to take care of co-workers’ kids. In Texas, hospital workers unsuccessfully sued to knock down a vaccine mandate for employees.

The AFL-CIO is a coalition of 56 U.S. unions representing around 12.5 million workers. The guild, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, represents around 100 of the federation’s employees, including research, tech support and policy staff (The Washington-Baltimore chapter also represents news outlets including Bloomberg Industry Group, a subsidiary of Bloomberg LP).

The AFL-CIO has had a contentious relationship with its own staff in recent years, with flashpoints including a contract that federation management unilaterally imposed on another of its unions in 2018 after failing to reach a deal.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.