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Coronavirus Pandemic Gives CSEA-Represented DOT Workers ‘A Special Mission’

Published Monday, May 11, 2020
by Jason Hosier/CSEA News
Coronavirus Pandemic Gives CSEA-Represented DOT Workers ‘A Special Mission’

(MONTICELLO, NEW YORK) - It’s not uncommon for Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Members working for the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to deploy to other regions after natural disasters or extreme winter weather, but some have been traveling the state recently for an entirely new mission. They’re getting materials where they need to be, taking supplies from a central location to COVID-19 Testing Sites across New York.

“There are ‘masses out here that need the help and need the supplies,’” said Richard Crawley, a Shop Steward for the Floyd Culligan Sullivan County DOT Local. “It ‘feels good to be able to help them and support them.’”

Crawley and several other CSEA Members of his Local stepped up when a call for volunteers went out.  The deployment, as they call it, has them working nearly every day delivering needed goods as far out as Stony Brook on Long Island to smaller counties Upstate near the Canadian border.

Each morning, Workers meet at a warehouse not too far from their regular worksite.  

They each receive their itinerary for the day, with each Worker hitting different testing sites across the state.

Their trucks are filled with the necessities and then they then hit the road.

They keep cleaning supplies with them and then disinfect trucks at the end of the day.

“We’ve brought N95 masks, gloves, gowns, Tyvek suits and pallets of water to the test sites,” said Diane Bull, a long-time Local CSEA Activist. “We’ve even brought MREs for the members of the National Guard working there.  More than anything, though, it’s about getting PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to the test sites.”

Sites in higher volume locations, such as Long Island, New York City and Westchester County, require frequent supply drop-offs.

Upstate, where the number of cases has been lower, CSEA Members are still helping Workers stay prepared.

“A few places I went to up north ‘were smaller set-ups’ at the local ambulance corps or firehouses,” said Bull. “Everyone ‘has been appreciative when we arrive.’”

DOT Members have helped set up different state-run testing sites from the beginning.

Along with the National Guard, County and State Public Health Workers, and others, DOT Workers first helped set up the first mobile testing site in New Rochelle, the site of the initial outbreak.

And they also helped elsewhere.

“Rich (Crawley) and I did a night up at Bear Mountain State Park when that site was getting set up,” said Austin Ihlefeldt, another volunteer who serves as assistant chief of the Callicoon Center Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s ‘been great seeing how many people from DOT across the state have helped.’  I’ve been a volunteer fireman for eighteen years and I have Nurses in my family, ‘so I’m glad I’m able to do my part.’”

This special mission has meant long hours and time away from family for many, but CSEA Members say the work has been meaningful.

“It ‘feels good to help our community during this critical time,’” Bull said. “I ‘know people who’ve gotten sick feel helpless, so we’re glad we are getting supplies to these sites that allow people to be tested and get on the road to recovery.’”

Workers say the commitment they’ve made - and doing their part - won’t end any time soon.

“We’re ‘on this mission until it’s done,’” Crawley said.

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