The mayor wants them back. The union says, “not yet.”

District Council 37, which represents 80,000 workers, filed an Improper Practice Petition to stop New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio from making all city employees ‘return to work.”

The petition states that de Blasio’s mandate for all city employees to come back to pre-pandemic is premature and irresponsible when considering the more contagious Delta variant to the COVID-19 infection. DC 37, AFSCME Executive Director Henry Garrido said that most of his constituents have worked remotely since March 2020 and it doesn’t make sense to go back now.

“The workers who make up District Council 37 have kept New York City running for the last 18 months,” stated Henry Garrido, executive director, District Council 37, AFSCME. “They’ve proven time and again that no matter where they are, the job will get done. With the Delta variant and all the others, the landscape of COVID-19 is too uncertain to needlessly force people back to their desks. We will not let our members be used as guinea pigs. The City must allow non-essential works to work from home until we are certain it’s safe.”

Most have worked remotely since March 2020 without issue. The Improper Practice Petition follows weeks of attempting to negotiate a delay with the City.

According to the union, after over 200 inspections of members’ work locations, it was determined that indoor office spaces aren’t equipped to meet the current safety standards and protect workers. DC 37 alleges that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services removed social distancing requirements that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends.

The Office of Collective Bargaining will review the petition and the City will have a chance to respond. This comes after close to a month of negotiations with de Blasio.

On Brian Lehrer’s WNYC radio show, a caller told the mayor that he should have created a hybrid model. “Right now, folks could be doing this from home,” the caller, named Ernesto, said. “They can be working productively. We can be spending money in our communities because I know it’s a big thing for spending money in our communities, jumpstart the economy, folks are already doing that already.” The caller also noted that many private companies and private companies that work with the public have a hybrid model and called the mayor’s desire to return fully to offices “archaic.”

De Blasio, in response, said that he didn’t question the hard work by people like Ernesto. He said “My question is was it the best work that we could get done for this city in a moment of crisis? And my experience has been absolutely consistent. We have had much more ability to get things done with people in person. People like to talk about what’s been found in the tech community or other places. Those are profit-making entities. We are a public service entity. My experience, uniformly, over a year and a half is that has been much harder for people to communicate, to come to decisions, to act effectively when they are remote.”