Matt Dustin had a twist: to take an unpaid leave from his job or continue working for a shipbuilding company where he feared getting a coronavirus and bringing it home to his vulnerable wife.
Dustin decided to give up his salary.
“There is no social distance at all,” says Dustin, who is away from work in Bath, Maine, because his wife has a heart hospital and asthma, which puts him at greater risk of getting COVID-19. “If they put you to work, you will work on top of each other.”
His trade union has requested that essential workers be allowed to stay home and get paid. But so far, the company has not budgeted. So Dustin says he is home, diving into his savings if he has to finish.
At a time when tens of millions of Americans have been told to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, millions of others have no choice but to sign up for work. Some say they are forced, even if their office and office tasks can be done remotely. Others who deliver packages, clean buildings and work on assembly lines are unable to fulfill their role outside.
Whatever they do at work, many of these workers have one thing in common – they do not feel safe, and they conflict with employers when they demand more protection.
They are worried about sitting in crowded offices where they fear the virus will spread rapidly. They say they are inadequately equipped for the risk they are engaging with the public and their employees. They are eager to work in facilities and warehouses that they do not think will be adequately cleaned.
“Those in critical positions will undoubtedly feel an increase in anxiety as the outbreak continues,” says Andrew Challenger, executive vice president of Gray & Christmas Inc., a recruitment agency for Challenger. “It is imperative that the employers of these workers take some basic measures to protect themselves, including soap and water, hand sanitizers and towel cleaners, and to instruct sick workers to stay at home.”
Workers, union leaders and activists are calling for additional protection measures against the virus, which has resulted in more than 800 deaths and more than 60,000 infections in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon.
About 50 workers at Perdue Farm, near Perry, Georgia, went to work Monday saying they think the chicken producer is not doing enough to clean the plant properly and keep him safe from coronavirus, according to WMAZ in Central Georgia.
A Chicago Tribune report states Chicago suburban court officials went out last Friday because they felt they or the courthouse guests were not adequately protected from COVID-19.
Trade unionists say 59% of workers did not report to work at Bath Iron Works, a company that manufactures guided missile destroyers for the fleet.
And Amazon employees and activists overseeing the company have made a number of demands, including requests for a more uniform distribution of disinfection purposes and the extension of payroll policies to all employees if their facilities are closed due to a virus or they have to treat sick family members.
Businesses offer bonuses and extra pay
Some companies make policy changes, support wages, and give bonuses to their employees, who have to report on-the-job.
“Companies change shifts so fewer people work together,” Challenger says. “Some companies offer higher salaries for their teams who have to go to work during an outbreak.”
WeWork, a shared workspace company, offers a $ 100 a day bonus to certain employees who want to come in and keep their offices in the US and Canada.
The company, whose members are mainly freelancers and small businesses, operates in states like New York and New Jersey, which authorize all non-essential businesses nearby. But WeWork CEO Marcelo Claure and chairman Sandeep Mathrani today in a statement to the US called the company “a service provider” with an obligation to keep the buildings open.
“If we believe we can use our buildings safely, and in line with government policy, we will keep these buildings open,” the statement said.
WeWork says its employees can work from home on a full payroll, and entering the office is voluntary.
Charter workers ask why they can’t stay home?
But even though the company is seen as a necessity, some say that not all employees need to be on site.
Employees of Charter Communications have expressed their frustration at the company’s reluctance to let them work from home, while other large telecommunications companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, pursue such policies.
System engineer Nick Wheeler emailed his boss why.
“We are all in these offices and elevators all day,” Wheeler says. “It makes sense that if most of these people can work from home, it will help reduce the spread of the virus. That was my main concern and the main reason I wanted to work from home.”
But according to his leader, the email aroused fear. Wheeler said he would end the offer, which the manager initially rejected and accepted shortly thereafter.
However, since then, the Charter has reversed, saying that it allows some people to work from home.
Stamford, headquartered in Connecticut, a premier broadband and pay-TV provider in the United States, operates in an industry that is considered necessary by local, state, and federal guidelines.
“We are working 24 hours a day to provide uninterrupted Internet, telephone and TV news services,” the company said in a statement to the US TODAY.
Last week, Charter announced work opportunities at home, increased social distance between call centers and facilities, and three weeks of paid leave for all employees. It has also begun to outsource employees to call centers to work from home, but the process has slowed down because employees with access to customer information need to be in a safe place.
“We offer teleworking to employees whose jobs allow them to work outside the office without compromising our obligation to provide critical services,” the statement states.
Need for masks, gloves and other protective equipment
In the midst of the current health and economic crisis, workers who pack boxes, staffing records, and goods have proven to be necessary to guide the country through a pandemic like first aid and medical staff.
“I believe we have long considered the work of people doing this kind of work to be less important in our society … less valuable,” says Dania Rajendra, president of Athena, leader of the coalition of Amazon groups. employees and others who are concerned about the impact of the business. “This is the moment when we as a society appreciate who we are and who we want to be.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a blog post last week that his company has made millions of masks for its employees and contractors. And Kroger has told his employees that they can use such protective gear, adding that government officials should give supermarket workers priority over such equipment.
“Our partners are at the forefront of making sure Americans have access to the food, services and products they need during this unprecedented pandemic,” the grocery chain said in a statement Tuesday.
Kroger and Walmart install plexiglass barriers on many cash registers for health professionals to recommend social distance. And they put stickers on the store floor to help customers figure out the right space to put between themselves and others.
Are certain employees more likely to get COVID-19?
But some workers whose jobs demand them on the ground say security needs to go further.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that coronavirus can be detected for up to four hours on copper surfaces, up to 24 hours on cardboard and as long as three days on plastic and stainless steel.
Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease expert at Stanford Medical School, couldn’t say whether certain professions were more susceptible to the virus, noting that much was still unknown.
“We may find this later that there are more risks in certain places,” Maldonado says. “But I think it’s probably the same two factors. It’s about distance from each other and using the right equipment to protect yourself. And it applies to any profession … Risk factors are close to people because you don’t know which person may be sick.”
For some workers, the urgency is increasing as more of their colleagues fall ill.
Machinists in Boeing, Washington, grew anxious last week after a trade union issued a report stating that unreasonable holiday requests were denied following a Seattle Times report that 14 Puget Sound workers showed a positive virus.
And the Amazon Filling Center in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, was closed Tuesday because of “extra disinfection” after an unspecified number of employees showed positive COVID-19 values. A distribution center in Queens, New York, was also closed briefly last week after an employee was diagnosed with the virus.
Monica Moody, an Amazon employee who works in a warehouse in Concord, North Carolina, says she used gloves and glasses for her work before the coronavirus was born. But he says employees need new equipment that offers better protection from COVID-19.
“I’m packing your home and go packages … I’m scared for their own safety”, ” said Moody call on Tuesday, which is coordinated by United for Respect, tunnitonta retail workers defending a non-profit working group and paid for all Leave a campaign which claims that the paid leave. “We … barely have time to wash our hands when we get to work or during our shifts.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said in a blog post that the company has taken many steps to protect workers’ health by “increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning” by taking social distance in its filling centers.
And “when it comes to masks, our primary goal is to get them into the hands of our employees and our partners who strive to provide people with essential products.”
But the company can do more now, says Rajendra, both for warehouse workers and for transporters.
According to him, delivery drivers who “are under tremendous pressure to deliver packages at very high prices” need additional supplies, such as “hand cleaner or towels they need to keep in order to keep their vehicle”.
Home requests can put jobs in the queue
Some workers say they are chosen to choose between protecting health and paying wages.
Katherine Webster, a project engineer with her firm contracted to build a local hotel interior in Tallahassee, Florida, says when she asked to work from home, she was fired instead.
Webster, who has an autoimmune disease and a 9-year-old boy with diabetes and asthma, told the Tallahassee Democrat that he could have done his job via computer and phone. But at his request, the business owner asked him for a laptop and says he would contact him about future job opportunities.
Employees see results
Other workers who seek protection get results.
Mary Kay Henry, international president of the International Federation of Service Workers, says that as the coronary virus outbreak spread, janitors were suddenly asked to use hospital cleaners and disinfectants without being provided with gloves or masks.
“Many of them burst into rashes because it’s such a powerful device,” says Henry, whose union represents 175,000 caretakers who clean buildings in 22 cities.
But SEIU was able to secure paid sick leave and additional protective equipment for these workers.
At the same time, Rebecca Reindel, AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health, says the debate is on whether union members in public and communications companies should travel with two trucks, as they usually have in the past.
Concerns about the virus could lead to a “one person, one truck” policy, he says of employees who help secure gas, electricity and electricity.
But there is a lot to consider for employees in different industries.
“There’s a rush to get people back to work,” he says, “without really knowing what they can spread.”
Attendees: Billy Kobin, Louisville Courier Journal; Matthew Prensky, Salisbury Daily Times; N’Dea Yancey-Bragg and Mike Snider, USA TODAY; Nada Hassanein, Democrat of Tallahassee
Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones and Josh Peter @ joshlpeter11