State Workers Call for Resources, Compassion and Flexibility With Rep. Crist

State management has been showing precious little compassion and care by disregarding public health measures which would safeguard the general public and workers, AFSCME Florida President Vicki Hall and members detailed for U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-13) on September 28. 

“It is a slap in the face to all state, county and municipal workers who are putting their lives on the line every day,” said President Hall during a statewide Zoom meeting with  the former governor.

A candidate in next year’s gubernatorial election, Rep. Crist, heard from AFSCME members calling for common-sense safety measures like telecommuting and flexibility for those whose families have been impacted by the virus. 

Crist characterized the meeting as “ringing the alarm on unsafe and negligent working conditions without any plan to keep workers safe.” He heard members testify to the lack of personal protective equipment, slow notifications of positive exposures in shared office space, lack of time off when sick with COVID-19, refusal of telework and retaliation when speaking out against unfair treatment. 

In addition to flexibility in treatment of workers, ability to telecommute and availability of personal protective equipment, Kesha Otis called for additional mental health and wellness resources from the state. “I lost my step-father to covid,” said Otis, a state employee and president of AFSCME Local 2862 and Treasurer for AFSMCE Florida. “Many others have lost family members, but the State does not enough crisis support in place to help employees deal with loss.” 

A state worker for 26 years, Reginald Brady, President of AFSCME Local 3038 in Jacksonville, visits homes to conduct face-to-face interviews in child protective investigations. He spent seven days in the hospital as a result of COVID-19. Brady and his co-workers provide extensive services for the families they serve to make sure their needs are met, but he said the saddest thing is the lack of empathy or appreciation for workers who are risking their lives. “I have been to a funeral every weekend due to COVID-19,” Brady said. “This Delta variant is serious,” and he called for more to be done to protect workers.

Protocols are not in place to help workers, according to retired nurse and AFSCME Retiree activist Edith Owens, who worked in corrections for 27 years. Owens said she knows about HIPPA laws, which prohibits healthcare providers from releasing confidential medical information, but she said that people are dying every day and there is a public health need to know if a co-worker is sick from COVID-19.

Rep. Crist thanked the panel for courageous and insightful testimony. “You are treated so badly by this administration that is breaks your heart,” said Crist. “You need to be valued and respected by people in the administration who have empathy and compassion not just for the people the agency is serving, but the people in the agency.” 

This is an activity of AFSCME PEOPLE, which promotes active engagement in the political process.