As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, workers are suffering. As of last Friday, over 16 million workers have filed for unemployment. This already exceeds all unemployment claims during the entire 2008-9 Great Recession. Those still working often face the lack of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) placing themselves and their families at risk, millions of workers lack any access to paid sick time, very few employers have agreed to hazard pay, and the list goes on. SEIU 105 members are facing all of these same issues.
The good news is that our union gives us a way to fight back. While we are all facing unprecedented challenges, one thing that hasn’t changed at SEIU 105 is how we are using our Worksite Power, Our Political Power, and our Industry Power to fight back. I’m under no illusions that every issue is getting solved—or solved fast enough—but our members are fighting and winning.
Every day our members are demanding what they need and using the power of being together in union to win. The lack of PPE has been an enormous and widespread issue in healthcare, mental health, for janitors & security officers, and at the airport.
Our members at the airport, after being neglected, recently forced the airport to provide over 800 masks for members. And, we’ll keep fighting for more.
In healthcare and mental health, our members have been demanding adequate PPE with some additional supplies rolled out in many places. And, we’ll keep fighting for more.
Many janitors were being asked to clean buildings without even gloves.Our members have been demanding what they need and more contractors are providing those needed supplies. And, we’ll keep fighting for more.
Across our union members have also been raising this issue publicly. Our union has successfully worked on multiple print and television media stories to bring awareness to the dire need of PPE for workers.
Members across our union have also joined our campaign on social media to publicize the need for front-line workers to get the PPE they need. A recent post featuring one of our members has generated the most shares and likes than any SEIU 105 Facebook post in our history.
Through the power of our national Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, our Kaiser members recently won significant new benefits of additional COVID-19 related paid sick time, a childcare benefit, and access to temporary housing to help protect family members from exposure. But, there are more things our Kaiser members need and we will keep fighting.
At PPRM, members faced layoffs, but through their new union our members prevented layoffs and for those employees whose hours were reduced, we fought for and won that their healthcare will continue. At MHCD members are fighting hard to get the PPE that they need.
In janitorial, we have hundreds of members who have been laid off or had their hours reduced. There, we are making sure members’ contractual rights are respected and in most cases, members’ healthcare has been protected so far.
SEIU nationally has been demanding employers and government—especially the Federal Government—get the PPE that workers desperately need. SEIU 105 has joined those efforts. We are supporting legislation to get the Federal Government to use its power to force manufacturers to make PPE under the Defense Production Act. We are supporting federal legislation that would give hazard pay to all essential workers.
Locally, we have been pushing both state and local governments to protect workers and to prevent as many layoffs as possible. We have successfully stopped several planned layoffs of our members at the airport, for example. In the last round of federal relief, SEIU successfully won an unprecedented $3 billion fund to keep workers who provide critical services to the airlines but are contracted out.This money must go to the workers and our members helped win it.
We know that when more workers in our industries are in unions, we are all better off. This is because non-union employers drag down the standards for all workers. And, the stories coming from non-union facilities are horrifying.
Non-union healthcare workers are being fired for even daring to ask for PPE. We have even had reports of non-union workers being threatened with being fired if they apply for unemployment insurance! And, in layoffs—non-union workers have no process so management simply chooses who they want to layoff. A non-union worker also lacks any rights to be recalled when the economy does improve.
Not surprisingly, unions across the country are receiving inquiries from non-union workers on how to join. We’ve experienced the same at SEIU 105. There is unprecedented interest because this crisis is so severe—and widespread—and workers know they need help. Hopefully, workers will keep organizing during this crisis and after and build more power at their worksite, in their industries, and across our country.
This pandemic has shined a light on the fact that a low-wage, non-union economy that has structural racism laid over it is not working for most Americans whether white, black, or brown. We must demand what workers need now. But, we must also demand an economy that has economic and racial justice for our future.
It is horrendous that in the richest country in the world, workers are battling COVID-19 without adequate PPE and ventilators, that workers lack paid sick time, that workers make so little they have no savings when they lose their jobs or have their hours cut. It is unacceptable that corporations are getting bailed out (again) and how little is being done for workers. We encourage all members to take pictures of yourself and/or small groups of co-workers (gathered safely!) to highlight the need for PPE and share it on your social media and with SEIU 105 too! Hold up signs that say #GetMePPE if you can.
So, we’ll keep fighting in every way we know how. That is what this crisis calls for. We won’t win every fight or every issue, but every single time we win matters. I’m deeply proud of our members who have been fighting back for themselves, their co-workers, their patients or those they serve. This is what inspires me every day and I hope it inspires you as well. We will get through this crisis—together.
SEIU Local 105