Essential workers

Toledo City Council last week made The Glass City the first in Ohio to take up a resolution supporting an Essential Workers Bill of Rights as part of a new national campaign to deliver better treatment and higher pay to all “essential workers.” 

The resolution was introduced September 15th at a Toledo City Council meeting by Councilwoman Theresa Gadus. A vote is expected in October.

Toledo’s Essential Workers Bill of Rights largely reflects a national bill proposed earlier this year by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which seeks to protect frontline workers by requiring employers to provide personal protective equipment, robust hazard pay, and provide 14 days of paid sick leave, among other proposals. The bill has stalled in the Senate, however.

There is no word from Columbus City Council whether it will consider a similar resolution. Several major cities have also introduced an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, as New York City Council did back in April.

Toledo Councilwoman Gadus said the pandemic has pulled back the curtain showing all Americans the importance of essential workers – who are making it possible to feed our children, for instance. Ohio is home to several huge meat rendering plants, for example, which are largely staffed with Latino immigrant workers.

“These courageous workers have stood on the frontlines, risking their health, their families, and their lives. Many essential workers have made the hard decisions to separate from their families in order to serve their communities (and) provide financial stability for their families and support our economy,” said Toledo Councilwoman Gadus. “They deserve the dignity that comes from equity, security, protections, and benefits for their labor and for their labor to take place in a safe environment that values their contributions.

Mónica Ramírez, founder and President of Justice for Migrant Women, alsoannounced last week the creation of Essential Ohio (#EssentialOH), the Ohio arm of this national campaign at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 2020 Leadership Conference, which was held at the City Club in Cleveland. 

“The Essential Workers Bill of Rights is a commitment to honor those we have lost to COVID-19 and to fight for the working people who truly are essential to our communities,” said Ramírez. “Workers in the food supply chain, medical, and care-giving sectors, as well those who serve other vital functions that keep our nation in operation are often paid poorly and forced to work in grueling and even dangerous conditions. They are putting their health and safety on the line to care for us. The least we can do is ensure that their rights and contributions are cared for, too.”

By passing an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, municipalities commit to transforming their laws and standards to “ensure equity, security, and benefits for workers that are worthy of their labor and their dignity,” regardless of the workers’ status. Local governing bodies also commit to advocating for federal and state improvements. 

The Essential Ohio campaign is calling on cities across the state to follow Toledo’s lead, and introduce ordinances in their own city councils and county boards. Read the full draft of the Toledo ordinance here:

“Essential Ohio is part of a broader national push to ensure that workers who have always been essential, but are now being recognized as such, have the rights they are owed, and are treated with respect, both during the pandemic and beyond,” said Eugenio Mollo, an attorney at Advocate for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), who presented in favor of the Toledo City Council resolution.

“It’s a robust set of commitments to workers, and it’s the only right thing to do. These workers have our backs, and we have to have theirs,” he added.

The Essential Ohio campaign is supported by Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), Justice for Migrant Women, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance, Cleveland Jobs with Justice, La Conexión, and Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Local 10.

They welcome others to join the efforts. 

The national campaign is anchored by National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Justice for Migrant Women, and other organizations. For more information and a full list of national partners, see