'People over profit': Demonstrators against open opening state too soon

Posted at 8:16 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 21:16:26-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Demonstrators took to the streets on International Worker's Day in a sign of solidarity against suspending the safer-at-home order in Davidson County.

In just one week, Davidson County and Nashville could join the other 89 counties in the state and begin Phase One of opening business. Before any of that happens, demonstrators say their concerned for workers returning to an unsafe workplace.

As many as 40 cars lined the streets of downtown Nashville for Worker's Dignity, a Nashville-based workers rights advocacy group that just happened to be celebrating their 10-year anniversary the same day. Demonstrators were quick to correct those who called Friday a protest, as most the caravan of cars stopped by Metro General Hospital in what resembled more of a celebration.

There they were met with applause, cheers and the occasional cowbell, from health care workers who welcomed the support from a group promoting people over profit.

Most members of Worker’s Dignity are in hospitality, food or construction, but they worry those jobs offer very little flexibility for employees who would rather stay-home than risk their health.

Just Thursday, Metro Public Health Officials announced another steady climb of COVID-19 cases, which prompted the delay of Phase One until at least May 8.

Demonstrators tell us it shows there's still uncertainty behind the risk involved in opening restaurants, hotels and bars. They're concern is what happens if businesses begin holding it against their employees, if they decide to stay home.

"The timing for releasing the stay-at-home order is way too early and a lot of people who don’t have any other source of income are going to be forced to go back to work in an unsafe environment. We just want to send a message to Tennessee government and corporations that are pushing for this, that people need protection. We need to value people over profit," said Derek Price.

Worker’s Dignity has started an online petition requesting at least four weeks of paid time off for anyone laid off or missing work because of COVID-19.

They’re also asking for major businesses to provide at least 14 paid sick days for all direct employees and those hired through a temp agency.

Cecilia Prado is co-founder of Worker's Dignity who said paid time off shouldn't be considered a privilege.

She and others are working to get businesses to commit to preventing workplace retaliations against employees who decide to stay home if they're worried for their safety.