(SACRAMENTO) – In the midst of an unprecedented and out-of-control surge that has highlighted our continued lack of preparation nearly two years after the pandemic started, SEIU members reacted strongly to two pieces of news, one alarming and one encouraging.
SEIU California leaders, representing over half a million healthcare workers and other caregivers in the State of California, expressed outrage about the California Department of Public Health’s decision to allow employers to force COVID-positive healthcare workers and caregivers to work, exposing sick patients, vulnerable elderly people, and the general public to COVID.
Shortly after this news, the Administration announced its intention to ensure that workers will have the supplemental paid sick leave we need in order to keep ourselves, our patients, and our families safe. Supplemental paid sick leave expired on September 30. Workers have advocated strongly for renewal for months. That effort still requires the legislature to pass a bill.
“Healthcare workers and patients need the protection of clear rules guided by strong science. Allowing employers to bring back workers who may still be infectious is one of the worst ideas I have heard during this pandemic, and that’s really saying something,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU California and Executive Director of SEIU California.
“We appreciate that supplemental paid sick leave, which should never have been allowed to expire, might soon be renewed,” said Schoonover. “This is a critical piece of the protection that workers and the public need. We also need to recognize that healthcare workers and caregivers are exhausted and at the end of their rope. Their hard work and sacrifices need to be recognized. We’re sitting on a $31 billion dollar surplus, and many healthcare corporations have posted record profits during this pandemic. It’s well past time that workers receive something more than empty words of thanks.”
The CDPH ruling affects nursing homes as well as hospitals. Nursing homes have been the site of nearly 10,000 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic, making them among the most dangerous places to work and to live.
“Nowhere did we see more tragic COVID death in this pandemic than in our nursing homes,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015 and Executive Board Member of SEIU California. “Yet, our governing public healthcare agencies—from the CDC to our local health departments and health safety enforcement bodies—continue to fail us, putting expediency above sound public health guidance. This guidance does the same.”
SEIU leaders and members vowed to continue fighting for patient and worker safety despite the state’s abdication of its role.
“Our union will fight for safe working conditions for hospital workers who have continuously put their lives on the line during this pandemic,” says Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW and Executive Board Member of SEIU California. “We intend to expose any hospital employer who knowingly puts patients at risk by forcing COVID positive caregivers back to work.”