The Frontline Workers Fair Treatment Charter was developed as a collaboration between The Equity Center, Network2Work at Piedmont Virginia Community College, and the University of Virginia’s President’s Council which is comprised of Charlottesville community leaders. The purpose of the charter is to gain regional support for the rebuilding of a healthy community as localities move forward with recovery efforts. We recognize that the reopening of the economy will depend on the health, well-being and labor of frontline workers.
Prior to the COVID crisis, more than 35,000 workers were employed in the Charlottesville region in seven broad industries that have been serving on the frontlines of support, sustenance, and care since the pandemic. They make up 29 percent of all workers in our area and include physicians and nurses, grocery store employees and convenience store clerks, warehouse workers and bus drivers, K-12 school teachers and instructional support staff, and cleaning services, among others. They have always been essential, maintaining services and performing work on which we all depend; they have often been underpaid and underappreciated. In the current health crisis, they are too often under protected as well. A comprehensive analysis led by Dr. Michele Claibourne and Sam Powers of these workers can be found here.
As Virginia begins to ease public health restrictions, the frontline workers on which re-opening depends will be placed in increased jeopardy. Given the disproportionalities in the frontline workforce, the increased risk likewise falls even more heavily on people of color. Our region’s essential workers have a right to health and safety protections, paid sick leave, compensation in accord with the hazards they face, and more. In Charlottesville, and surrounding counties, these often low wage essential workers are disproportionately African American and Latinx. This truth is particularly stark in two industries: building cleaning services and public transit. We know that COVID has had a disproportionate higher impact on these communities. It also important to note that 68% of all essential workers in this region are women. As a community we can provide support through adhering to the following practices and policies outlined in the co created charter.