Member Story – Kehinde Adeoye
“A lot of management doesn’t know how to respond and we need to take the lead as a union.”
For many EDD workers, the COVID-19 crisis has been defined by the overwhelming increase in claims being made by displaced restaurant, food service, and service workers. No one is as familiar with this sudden demand as Kehinde “Nick” Adeoye, an SEIU member and DLC president in the EDD.
While some departments have had speedy responses, many have dragged their feet on affecting the changes required to keep workers safe while allowing them to continue their work. “I haven’t been in the office since March 20, when we got the call to work from home,” says Adeoye. “Fortunately, I was able to get on the program because I was already on the telework plan. After this call, however, as a DLC president, I found out there wasn’t a uniform response from management surrounding telework.”
However, as a member leader of SEIU, Adeoye was able to use the resources available to not only secure the necessary leave for other workers, but to ensure that management’s lapses in responses were met by the union’s support. “When I contacted workers in Ontario, I was redirected to talk to management individually, and I found that this one-on-one interaction with managers was more successful.” Adeoye said. “A lot of inaction meant that these issues were not being followed up on. With school closures, child care for children whose schools have closed would be very difficult, and I know a lot of my coworkers have the same problem.”
Because of the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on a wide range of services, things management may have expected their employees to be able to rely on, like child care, are nonexistent. This means that workers were stuck in a position where they could not ensure their children were looked after while at work. “I advised a lot of employees, including those who do not qualify for ATO, how to respond to management and ensure they can get the child care they need. There are a lot of single mothers in my department, and they are lost in this process,” says Adeoye. “Even when they enlist their managers, the managers tell them very little, and it falls to them to do this on their own.”
This gap in coverage has become an important part of how Adeoye is handling the crisis. “EDD employees should get the support they need to ensure they can get child care.” Some employees have turned to management for assistance, only to find they were equally in the dark. “A new employee, a permanent intermittent worker with 3 children, all of whom are out of school, texted me that her manager didn’t know what to do, they weren’t helping, and she needed guidance. I told her to send an email to management, cc me, and she was able to talk to the supervisor and get time off to take care of her kids,” said Adeyoe.
This employee’s case highlighted a specific issue for Adeyoe. The new normal of working from home is not the overwhelming logistical problem it was made out to be. The real issue is managers lack a plan to ensure members can keep working in this changing situation to help address this crisis as quickly as possible. With this employee, that means keeping managers up to date. “We have to make sure she calls in every day to keep them updated and ensure that management cannot punish her for being out of the office,” said Adeyoe.
Management is not the only voice in the room, and where they do not know how to act, members are supporting each other through the union and helping coordinate these responses from department to department. “A lot of management doesn’t know how to respond,” said Adeoye, “and we need to take the lead as a union and act together to help each other in our offices and communicate our problems to management and the MRC.”