SEIU NJ State Council calls for child care, job and benefit protections, supplies and standards for critical workers in the battle against COVID-19
An open letter to elected officials, policy makers and industry leaders in New Jersey:
The SEIU New Jersey State Council is comprised of unions representing more than 23,000 service employees statewide, many who are on the front lines battling COVID-19. These include resident physicians staffing hospitals, nursing home workers, industrial laundry workers servicing health care facilities, warehouse workers maintaining vital supply chains, and cafeteria workers making lunches for the children of essential workers, among others.
Service workers of all kinds are doing critical work in these challenging times. It is clear that existing resources to support and protect workers are inadequate as we face the prospect of a prolonged crisis. We call on federal, state and industry leaders to take immediate action in addressing these shortcomings as we fight to #ProtectAllWorkers.
– Child Care: New Jersey needs a comprehensive plan to provide safe, no-cost day care and alternative schooling for the children of essential employees. Schools have been closed statewide for two weeks, but accommodations are still lacking for the children of first responders, health care personnel, and other essential workers. New Jersey should adopt a plan to open school resource centers on a limited basis to provide full-day childcare, three daily meals, and instruction akin to a summer-school model for these children. Such a system is working in other states and should be adopted in New Jersey.
– Job and benefit protection: Government at all levels and private industry must insure no worker is penalized—with job or income loss or any other type of retaliation—for not working if they are sick, have contracted the virus or suspect that they were exposed and thus need to quarantine, or if they need take care of a loved one who is sick. Timely access to paid sick leave, disability and unemployment insurance, and other government protections must be assured for all workers – regardless of immigration status – as does access to health care. Recent federal and state actions are a start, but not sufficient in themselves.
– Protocols, PPE, and standards: Masks, gloves, tests, disinfectants are all in critically short supply. We need to maximize our capacity to acquire and properly allocate these vital materials. This requires consistent communication between the state government, health care systems, and the organizations representing the front-line healthcare workforce, and we applaud Gov. Murphy for leading this effort. Additional guidance and standards should be provided for workers in other essential sectors—including industrial laundry workers, warehouse workers, and school employees sanitizing buildings and ensuring that free meals are provided to children.
At this time of great uncertainty, action in the areas outlined above will help ensure the health and safety of New Jersey’s workers, patients, and of all state residents. There’s no time to waste.