by Wade Rathke
Friday, September 11, 2020
New Orleans Leaders and members of Local 100 United Labor Unions finally had enough of working on the frontlines without proper protection against the coronavirus in nursing homes, supported living centers, human development centers, transportation, sanitation, cleaning, schools, head start centers, and public-facing offices. OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, requires every workplace to contain a copy of the company’s health and safety plan. Local 100 members working for sixty different employers, public and private, came together on one day to go into their employers’ offices and demand to see the plan.
None of this came out of the blue, given the shutdown, CDC regulations, and nature of the services provided by the daily labor of Local 100 members. This concern had been a matter of constant discussion in the workplace between Local 100 stewards and supervisors, Local 100 representatives and employers. Early in the pandemic when clients of ResCare turned positive and workers were unprotected, Local 100 filed a formal complaint with OSHA. We’re still waiting for action.
Some workplaces have been better than others, certainly, while others have pretended that they needed to do little, slow walking everything from clear policies to protect workers and clients to inadequate personal protection gear. Local 100, working with #NOLAPPE-Last Mile, has distributed literally thousands of face masks, shields, and isolation gowns to our workers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. As one of our Shreveport stewards working at Caddo Head Start told the press on all-union-action-day, “We are constantly cleaning, and I’ve purchased my own masks and my own shoe covers.”
Local 100 sent requests to all their employers in recent weeks formally requesting a copy of each employer’s OSHA mandated health and safety plan. The response was underwhelming. One of the nursing homes in Shreveport responded. A couple of head start companies complied in Houston and Shreveport. At best it was a smattering at the headquarters level. At the workplace level, Local 100 members reported never having seen the plan or informed of its existence.
Local 100 members in a coordinated multi-state, multi-city action in full-PPE confronted supervisors in hundreds of our workplaces with all of our employers demanding to see a copy of the plan, while alerting the public and media about the action. We’re still getting reports back on how many of workers successfully accessed reports. We’ll count them up, and file more complaints with OSHA on the unavailability of the reports. We will get them.
Once we have them, then the next step in Local 100’s Health & Safety Campaign, will be making sure the plans actually make workers’ health and safety a priority in the guidelines and a reality in practice. This should have been the easy part, the harder parts are still to come.
Local 100 members are fed up. Local 100 members are in it to win it.
It’s a fight that needs to happen everywhere.
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.