Tag Archives: OSHA

Workers Demanding Pandemic Protection

New Orleans      Local 100 United Labor Unions members continue in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas to speak up and confront their employers, both public and private, about the inadequate health and safety plans at their workplaces.  Having written requesting copies of the plans with most employers not responding, last week members and leaders demanded to see mandatory plans that the Occupational Health and Safety Agency requires be placed in all worksites for worker inspection.  Two-thirds of the sixty employers and the almost 500 worksites where Local 100 represents 25,000 workers could not produce a plan.

Local 100 has now attempted to file charges at OSHA offices in Little Rock, as reported by the Arkansas Times, Houston, and Baton Rouge naming specific employers, including the state of Arkansas, where this is an issue.  There no longer is an office in New Orleans, so for Louisiana, members needed to file the complaint in the Baton Rouge office.  Despite the fact that it was 2:30 in the afternoon, the office was shut tight as a drum.  Notes on the door reminded the public that there was a pandemic and masks were required, but there was no notice indicating the office was closed, or what hours it might have been open.  Houston and Little Rock had a little more luck.

The differences in employer attitudes and plans for their workers can seem like night and day.  At Caddo Parish Community Action Agency, where we represent Head Start workers in the Shreveport area, when we requested the plan, we almost immediately received a 78-page document.  The agency is requiring staff to wear isolation gowns when working with students, which is a higher standard than experienced by our nursing home workers, despite the fact that a huge percentage of Covid-19 deaths have occurred in nursing facilities.  On the other hand, Gulf Coast CAA, usually one of our better employers, in an exercise in magical realism of some sort, replied to our action with a lengthy email claiming they were exempt from having a plan, even though all the information in their correspondence dealt with the exemption by the CDC from their reporting Covid cases in the way that other employers are required to do.   Having an OSHA plan for employees is not a voluntary choice.  Of course, even Shreveport’s Head Start, while demanding workers have isolation gowns, is not providing them, meaning that Local 100 is driving up fourteen boxes of gowns next week for our members.

The door closed at OSHA’s office in Baton Rouge may be emblematic of the very relaxed, seemingly negligent, way that OSHA has handled the pandemic, since they still have not issued guidelines.  Local 100 worries that it’s all bark and no bite.  During the actions last week at worksites, a labor attorney for ResCare, the giant national services company, where we represent community home-based client care workers for the differently-abled, immediately responded to the union, saying she thought they had already sent us the plan upon our first written request.  We were impressed by the quick response.  Now another week later, still nothing.

Employers must realize that OSHA is not just out-to-lunch, but AWOL on this crisis.  Nonetheless, workers with Local 100 are committed to continuing to take action in every way available to protect themselves, even if their employers and the government are still not stepping up to the task after all of these months when we have been in the full throes of the pandemic and the death count continues to rise.

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Where’s the Health and Safety Plan?

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.

Enough.

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.

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