Today, Wednesday May 20, essential health care workers at Murdoch Developmental Center residential facility spoke out and delivered petitions amid coronavirus.
In early April, over 900 workers at N.C. Department of Health and Human Services state operated facilities, like Murdoch Center, signed a petition calling for hazard pay due to the risks they take to come to work. At least one employee and two residents at the facility have tested positive for the virus this week, yet workers are still not receiving hazard pay. Union members gathered in a rally then marched to deliver a second petition to facility director Pam Kuhno. This is part of a statewide Safe Jobs Save Lives campaign organized by the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, UE Local 150.
Video of the action can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/UE150/videos/266936971161237/
“Even Target and Amazon workers are getting ‘hero’ pay. We deserve to get it RIGHT NOW! Everyone I know working in grocery stores, BJ’s, Walmart are receiving extra compensation for being essential workers. Why can’t we get it?”, stated union member Janet Silver, Youth Program Education Assistant at Murdoch Center. Silver continued, “those businesses are shutting down early. We don’t get to shut down early. We are bringing the virus home to our family. Not only are we health care workers, we are working with people with behavior issues. We are coming in, dealing with behaviors, and performing our jobs the way we were before. We are wearing masks, stressed out, and dealing with these behaviors. We should have gotten hazard pay first!”
Workers are concerned that residents that live at the facility do not have to wear masks. Meanwhile, workers are forced to wear masks, which creates extra stress and anxiety, for which they believe they should be compensated and changes to policy considered.
“We aren’t treated as essential, we are treated as sacrificial,” stated union member Shanequa Logan, Youth Program Education Assistant. Logan continued, “Wearing the masks makes it hard to breath and concentrate. We are trying to breath while taking care of the patients and sweating. Then our glasses fog up. We have health issues, especially those with asthma, and it’s very hard to work with shortness of breath.”
The petition demanded:
To effectively minimize the risks of a widespread outbreak to our patients and to provide a safer workplace, the undersigned Murdoch Center employees petition for the following changes:
- Implementation of hazard premium pay immediately. There is already at least one confirmed case of coronavirus amongst Murdoch employees. The headaches and breathing difficulties that we suffer from wearing the masks create additional stress on staff that should warrant premium pay starting immediately.
- Testing of Murdoch Employees. Contracting COVID-19 on the job is a work- related condition. Employee health already performs testing for other infectious diseases such as TB and measles. Testing symptomatic hospital staff is recognized nationally as a priority. Testing of symptomatic staff by Employee Health will provide immediate results which could help prevent an outbreak. Additionally, staff exposed to individuals who have tested positive will need to be tested to prevent transmission from asymptomatic staff to patients. Testing employees would demonstrate the facility’s concern for the health of its front-line employees.
- A checklist and storage protocol at the beginning of each shifton all units to confirm that surgical masks, gowns, hand sanitizer, operational soap dispensers, and other disinfectant supplies are readily available. We are concerned that infection can spread through improper distribution of masks. A written protocol, shared with all workers, on this subject would be essential.
For more information, call Bonita Johnson, UE150 Butner area chapter President, at 919-349-6290.
News coverage of this action can be found at Butner Creedmoor News site: https://www.butnercreedmoornews.com/stories/treated-as-sacrificial,208367