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New York City Workers Call On Mayor To Postpone Monday's Scheduled Office Return

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) --As New York City continues to reopen, city workers want a pause on plans to return to the office on Monday, concerned it's still not safe.

Hundreds of workers rallied at City Hall on Saturday in an effort to postpone their return.

"Hold everything" is the demand of some city government workers who say the push to return to in-person office duty is too soon.

They say by Monday is madness and want to wait until September.

"We want to have a voice in this return-to-office plan," one speaker at the rally  said.

As CBS2's Christina Fan reports, Mayor Bill de Blasio said welcoming city workers back next week is a major step toward recovery.

"The 180,000 city employees have been vaccinated. Very important to note that 80% of the workforce is, right now, at their jobs and has been through the height of the pandemic. We've got to do the work to bring the city back," de Blasio said.


He also mentioned $200 million in city office upgrades as a reason to get 80,000 municipal workers back to their pre-pandemic work spaces.

"We need to bring the city back strong, so this is a time for them to come back," de Blasio said.

Watch Christina Fan's report --

While the mayor believes being in the workplace will lead to more productivity, others say the city hasn't done enough to prepare and is rushing to reopen offices.

"It's not safe, it's not equitable, it's not healthy," said Jeremiah Cedeño of City Workers for Justice, a grassroots organization created during the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization has been pushing pack on the plan to bring workers back since it was announced in January.

"These buildings are old, these buildings don't have already good ventilation systems. So, you're sending people back into these very bad, bad working environments," he said.

"Folks are going to be in, or part of the time, in most settings. Not all the time, and there's going to be distancing, on top of masks, on top of cleaning, on top of ventilation. It will be a safe environment," the mayor said.

Cypress Hills resident Robert Cuffy questions if the ventilation will be adequate.

"My message to Mayor de Blasio would be to go sit at my desk for five days a week and see how his breathing is," Cuffy told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

Some parents want more in-person after-school programs up and running before they go back to the office. They say extend this to the start of the fall semester.

"If the schools are not fully open, where are people going to have their children taken care of?" Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.

"There's just not child care," one mother said.

"I'm gonna be alone. I might get into trouble or danger, and she can't help me because she has to go to work," an 11-year-old boy said.


At the rally, people talked about the subway system, saying they don't feel now is the time to add more riders to it.

"I took the subway just yesterday and it's impossible to do social distancing during rush hour, and this return to work will only make that more difficult," Cuffy said.

"I was alarmed when city workers came to me and told me they didn't feel there was a right plan in place to keep them safe at the workplace," Sen. Jessica Ramos said. "'We want a thorough plan that makes sure these workers and all workers are safe every day."

The mayor is not backing down, saying ongoing mask mandates with a little bit of remote working still allowed is enough to keep office workers safe while strengthening the economy and worker productivity.

He also said it follows his goal of having the city fully reopen by July 1.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.

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