Essential workers

Earlier this week Lakewood, just west of Cleveland, became the first city in Ohio to pass a resolution supporting an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, as part of a new national campaign to deliver better treatment and pay to all “essential workers.” Today, Toledo did the same – both with unanimous votes.

There is no word from Columbus City Council whether it will consider a similar resolution. Several major cities have also passed resolutions supporting an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, as New York City Council did back in April. The bill has not passed as of yet though.

A national Essential Workers Bill of Rights was 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.

Lakewood City Council President Dan O'Malley said: “This pandemic has been hard for all of us, but in particular for those workers who can never ‘work from home.’ They’re on the frontlines of keeping us healthy, and safe, and fed, and their well-being must be protected. It’s the least we owe them, and I’m proud to support the Essential Workers Bill of Rights.” 

According to Toledo City Council Member Theresa Gadus: “The pandemic has pulled back the curtain and reminded many people of the importance of essential workers to a strong, robust economy. 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; to provide financial stability for their families and support our economy. 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. I am proud that the Council of the City of Toledo passed this resolution unanimously.” 

By passing the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, municipalities commit to transforming their laws and standards as a part of long term structural change 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.  

Deb Kline, Executive Director of Cleveland Jobs With Justice, said: “We applaud Lakewood Council President Dan O'Malley and the entire Council for recognizing and understanding the need to protect essential workers, by taking this step to pass the Essential Worker Bill of Rights in Lakewood. Other communities across the state need to follow their lead and do the same.”

Added Eugenio Mollo, a Toledo-based Attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE): “#EssentialOH 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. 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.”

Mónica Ramírez, Founder & President of Justice for Migrant Women, explained: “The Essential Workers Bill of Rights and the Essential Ohio campaign 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. 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 have always put 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.” Ramírez is leading the Essential Ohio branch of the national campaign.

#EssentialOH is supported by ABLE, Justice for Migrant Women, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance, Cleveland Jobs with Justice, La Conexión, Policy Matters, and Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Local 10. We 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