WNYLaborToday.com Spotlight On ‘Essential’ Workers: CSEA Local 815’s Bill Wilkinson, A Licensed Practical Nurse At Buffalo’s Erie County Medical Center
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: This is another in a continuing series of WNYLaborToday.com Labor News Reports on Essential Union-represented Workers across Western New York, who deserve our thanks for continuing to do the jobs that not only allow us to stay safe and healthy, but produce the goods and services needed to ensure our economy continues humming. Today, Your On-Line Labor Newspaper features Bill Wilkinson (pictured above), a 13-year Member of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 815’s Erie Unit, who is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) employed at Buffalo’s Erie County Medical Center. (Photo Courtesy Of Bill Wilkinson)
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – Unionized Public Workers represented by the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) have a saying here in Erie County: Erie County Works Because We Work. The “We” are an array of Workers represented by CSEA, including a number of Essential Workers, like Bill Wilkinson, who’ve been working in the front lines since the Coronavirus Pandemic emerged nearly five months ago.
Wilkinson is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who’s employed at Buffalo’s Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), the region’s top trauma center. A 13-year Member of the Union, Wilkinson also serves as Executive Vice President of CSEA Local 815, as well as Vice President of CSEA’s Erie Unit and Section President at ECMC.
“Trauma’s ‘number one’ here (at ECMC), ‘but now, anything can come in our doors.’ ‘You don’t know what you’re getting,’” Wilkinson, 53, tells WNYLaborToday.com. “That’s ‘why it is so important to be Union, especially with this pandemic and its fall out.’ ‘You’re able to have the (health) benefits and good health insurance.’ With a Union, ‘you can deal with the issues and you have a Collective Bargaining Agreement that all have to follow.’”
CSEA Local 815 President Denise Szymura (Pictured below with Wilkinson/CSEA Photo) is extremely proud of the job not only Wilkinson is doing, but the jobs that all her Union’s Members are tasked with.
Local 815 represents 1,500 Members who are employed at ECMC and who work in the Clerical and Clinical Departments, as well as LPNs, Emergency Room Technicians, and in the Pharmacy and Radiology Departments, to name just a few.
Overall, Local 815 represents 5,000 Workers in Erie County, who are employed in 32 cities, towns and villages and authorities.
“They ‘have really stepped up to the plate,’” Szymura tells Your On-Line Labor Newspaper. “They are ‘fantastic.’ ‘They really didn’t know what COVID would bring, but they’ve put their families to the side and (made a decision) to put their lives on the line - every day.’”
Asked whether the general public is now viewing Essential Public Workers who are Unionized a bit differently these days, Szymura answered: “I ‘think so.’ (The general public now) ‘realizes what we do, every day.’ (CSEA Members) ‘make sure people get the public services they need.’ ‘Someone has to cross the t’s and dot the i’s too’ ‘Are they taken for granted?’ ‘Absolutely.’ ‘But you know what?’ ‘We’re taxpayers too.’ (COVID) ‘is far from over and Erie County works, because we work.’ ‘People just wouldn’t get the help they need’ (otherwise).”
Wilkinson, meanwhile, took time to answer a series of questions that WNYLaborToday.com is asking each and every Union-represented Front-Line/Essential Worker that Your On-Line Labor Newspaper interviews:
WNYLaborToday.com: What’s your reaction to being designated an Essential Worker?
Wilkinson: “In health care, ‘everyone’ is ‘essential.’ But when (COVID) became an issue, ‘we are all considered essential.’ ‘Now, we’re dealing with what is considered to be essential.’”
WNYLaborToday.com: What precautions has your workplace taken to ensure you work healthy?
Wilkinson: “The big issue has always been’ PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment). There had been a shortage and ‘we worked hard to make our people satisfied.’ ‘We were trying to be so pro-active in so many areas.’ ‘Obviously a lot of people helped out with donations to help increase our PPE,’ such as masks. ‘But it has always been a concern’ (potential shortage). ‘We were never in the same situation that New York City was.’ ‘We’re all set now.’”
WNYLaborToday.com: How important is it for you and your fellow Workers to continue to do the job you do?
Wilkinson: “It’s ‘important because we’re the top trauma unit here in our region.’ ‘Any patient can come through the doors of this hospital.’ ‘In fact, now - you don’t know what is going to come through those doors.’”
WNYLaborToday.com: How important has it been Working Union at your employer?
Wilkinson: “It’s ‘very important’ to be Union. ‘You’re able to get the benefits,’ ‘good’ health insurance. We also have a Safety Committee (at ECMC) that we can reach out to. You can deal with these issues, especially when you have (1,500) Members calling management. And, we have a Collective Bargaining Agreement ‘that must be followed.’”
WNYLaborToday.com: Do you think there’s a new-found respect for those Essential Workers who continue working in their jobs while the rest of the Nation self-quarantines?
Wilkinson: “Yes, especially because the media ‘has been so focused on that.’ From Grocery Store Workers to Fast Food Workers, Health Care Workers needing PPE. ‘I think the country, as a whole, believe these Workers are essential.’”