After employees at Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery circulated a petition early last week demanding better COVID-19 safety measures, the company’s management agreed to meet their demands Monday morning.
In the petition, signed by more than 1,250 people as of Monday evening, employees asked that the company close all indoor dining until a vaccine becomes widely available, construct more physical barriers between employees and customers and implement more specific sanitation procedures. Employees also demanded that the company provide at least $2 in hazard pay per hour and institute a clearer protocol in the event that an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
The company’s owners outlined their plans to meet these demands in a letter delivered to the Concerned Workers of Collegetown Bagels and Ithaca Bakery Monday morning.
“We will institute a wage change next week that fits the guidelines of the Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition and will immediately apply for certification, which we expect to receive in January,” the owners wrote. “This change will be ongoing and enduring ensuring a fair and living wage to every employee now and into the future.”
Many employees responded positively to the management’s announcement.
“It’s been a very hectic, very stressful week, so getting such an enormous win was monumental,” said Julia Dreitzer, an employee at the downtown CTB location. “They’ve modified the hazard pay demand in favor of pursuing a living wage instead, which we’ll be keeping a close eye on. But, overall, this is an enormous win.”
In addition to increasing employee wages, the company decided to close indoor dining at all of their locations, effective Tuesday, Dec. 15. Customers now have the option to takeout, pickup curbside or get their order delivered.
More physical barriers will be added on a store-by-store basis, based on wherever employees feel their safety is compromised, according to the letter. Each location will assign a minimum of two staff members to oversee adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and procedures.
The company also committed to more vigorously enforcing their COVID-19 response plan for employee positive cases. In a document outlining this plan, the company detailed specific protocols for situations in which an employee tests positive, exhibits symptoms or lives with someone who has tested positive or exhibited symptoms.
In addition to meeting the petition’s demands, the company has also decided to implement daily temperature checks for each employee upon their arrival to work. Each location will also dedicate a bathroom solely for employee use, according to the letter.
The company will now mandate that employees get tested every two weeks, and employees will be paid the equivalent of a half-hour for each test, according to the letter.
After a week of rallying support for the petition and hosting open forums on Zoom, employees were happy to hear that the management had agreed to their demands. However, some employees said there is still more work to be done
“We’re allowing ourselves time to celebrate, but will be continuing our organizing work and re-centering our focus specifically on the repeated injustices of the company towards people of color, and the wage theft that’s been identified as well,” Dreitzer said. “Believe me, we’re just getting started.”