Federal workers asking Congress for help during pandemic

Posted at 5:22 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 11:04:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Union representatives made a plea to Congress Wednesday for thousands of San Diego-based front line workers.

They are asking for:

  • Hazardous duty pay
  • Presumption of workplace illness
  • Weather and safety leave
  • Collective bargaining
  • Open healthcare enrollment during pandemic

Federal employees say there is a lack of PPE across the board, from to TSA agents, childcare workers on military bases, commissary workers on military bases and in prisons.

"The lack of PPE to our folks is a dire emergency," George McCubbin, Vice President of American Federation of Government employees said.

RELATED: California to buy 200 million masks a month amid outbreak

Shaun Jackson, AFGE member and commissary employee for five years, said employees are coming to him stressed out and frustrated, saying "they're supposed to clean every half hour or every so often but they don't have the allotted time to do so."

At prisons, Marco Sanchez, VP AFGE Local 3619, said they're forced to break social distancing, "staff are exposed to the virus on a daily basis, and that is why we're demanding hazardous duty pay for the front line workers who go into the prison every day."

RELATED: CDC loosens restrictions on isolating essential workers

McCubbin said they don't know how many San Diego federal workers have been exposed to COVID-19.

"That's the question we ask daily, the problem is the agencies, the departments, are not releasing factual information. Most of them are keeping it close," he said.

McCubbin said even if workers feel sick, they have to prove it to get workers' compensation," this is crazy that you're going to have to prove you contracted this virus at work when we know everywhere is being affected."

The California Department of Corrections sent 10News this statement:

All staff and visitors entering CDCR correctional institutions are undergoing a touchless temperature screening prior to entering the facility. This is in addition to the ongoing verbal symptom screening. This applies to CDCR state prisons and community correctional facilities. Those attempting to enter a state prison or office building at any time are required to verbally respond if they currently have new or worsening symptoms of a respiratory illness. If the individual’s response is that they are experiencing symptoms, they will be restricted from entering the site that day. We have worked closely with all of the unions to ensure they’re also communicating with their membership how important it is that staff stay home if they suspect they may have COVID-19.

The TSA sent 10News this response:

TSA remains committed to the health and safety of our workforce. TSA has authorized the voluntary use of N95 respirators for employees. These items are provided to the workforce for their use. Employees have had the option to wear surgical masks since the beginning of the pandemic, and use of TSA standard nitrile gloves continues to be mandatory when screening an individual or their property, which adds an additional layer of protection. Any swabs utilized as part of a screening procedure (checkpoint and checked baggage) are not be reused for multiple passengers. There is no shortage of masks on hand – either N95 or surgical – and those are made available to employees who come to work. In addition, there is no shortage of gloves, alcohol, hand sanitizer or wipes for employees’ use while on-duty.

Regarding, allegations that employees have to go to work if they show symptoms they are sick, TSA has been very clear in its direction: if you are sick, stay home. TSA HQ worked with local leadership at airports nationwide to adjust screening operations as needed to ensure that security is not compromised during this time. An allegation that employees are pressured to go to work if they are sick is absolutely false.

Employees are eligible for federal health benefits, are not charged accrued leave if they test positive for COVID-19 and are still being paid during this extraordinary time when many Americans are out of work.

Camp Pendleton sent this comment:

The Child Development Centers (CDC) aboard Camp Pendleton have always put the health and well-being of all personnel and their families as their top priority, and have continued to do so by implementing several changes. While they are working, childcare workers are equipped with disposable latex or non-porous gloves, face coverings and hand sanitizer. Anyone entering a facility is required to wear a cloth face covering. Extensive cleaning is done throughout the day, and childcare workers are following the rigorous hand washing procedures as outlined in the Health Promotion Protocol. The CDCs also utilize a custodial contractor nightly for deeper cleaning in areas such as floors and carpets. The CDCs aboard Camp Pendleton remain open to support our essential personnel while also doing their part to combat COVID-19.

10News reached out to other San Diego bases for comment regarding their childcare centers and the commissaries.