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Union Members Fighting Coronavirus Pandemic Share Their Stories & Urge The Federal Government ‘To Do More’

Published Monday, March 23, 2020 10:00 am
by Pete Levine/AFSCME News
Union Members Fighting Coronavirus Pandemic Share Their Stories & Urge The Federal Government ‘To Do More’

Members of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union - who are fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic recently joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders on a press call to share their stories of how they’re protecting their communities despite risks to themselves.

Those Union Members also called on the U.S. Senate to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

“Every time there is a ‘national challenge or crisis, Public Service Workers show up and answer the call,’” Saunders said. “They ‘rush into the fire and not away from it.’  ‘It was true on September 11th, 2001.’  ‘It was true in the aftermath of Katrina.’  ‘And it is true today as we’re all trying to contain the Coronavirus Pandemic.’”

Saunders added that the jobs that AFSCME Members hold, such as Health Care Workers, Home Care Providers, Child Care Workers, First Responders, School Employees, and so many more, are on the front lines of the pandemic and are - according to The New York Times - at the greatest risk of contracting the virus.

Three AFSCME Members from across the country shared their stories of heroism and sacrifice.

Derrick Fields, a Head Custodian at Medina Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, and President of Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) Local 580, works every day to provide a safe and sanitary learning environment for the roughly 400 students who attend his school.

“If we ‘fail’ to keep classrooms, gymnasiums and cafeterias ‘clean, that means both students and staff risk getting sick or injured,’” Fields said. “Amid the ‘spread of a highly contagious and lethal virus, this work - although largely out of sight - becomes even more important in keeping our communities safe and healthy.’”

Fields said his greatest concern is ensuring the health and well-being of Columbus’ children when they return to school once they reopen.

Many students at his school don’t have food at home.

Despite the risks associated with venturing into the community, Fields has volunteered to assist in providing breakfast and lunch to kids in 13 locations during Ohio’s school shutdown.

For Blake Anderson, the call of public service that animates his work as an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Worker with American Emergency Medical (AMR) in Sacramento, Yolo and Placer counties in California, led him to join a “Strike Team” of EMS Workers deployed to Oakland, California, where the Grand Princess Cruise Ship had been docked for a week.

He and his team were on call, working around the clock to treat patients on the ship and transport those with symptoms safely to the appropriate medical facility. 

“I ‘am willing to stay here and help for as long as I need to because we need people to step up in these trying times,’” said Anderson, a member of AFSCME United EMS Local 4911. “I ‘urge our elected leaders to do their part.’  ‘That means ensuring we have the tools we need to keep doing the job and providing timely and accurate information to the public about how they can prevent exposure.’”

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