Surviving COVID: Policy Recommendations

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

This is the final segment of AFGE’s 4-part series: Surviving COVID: How AFGE Members Took on a Once-in-a-Century Public Health Crisis   

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of unions in giving workers a voice in determining appropriate safety measures in their workplace. Many workers discovered that the best protection against coronavirus was a strong union.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, without AFGE members standing up and taking the lead when it mattered the most, more workers would have been exposed to a dangerous virus, more lives would have been lost, and more families would have had to live without their loved ones. For many employees struggling to protect themselves and their families, AFGE was the only lifeline during these trying times.   

We are proud to have won for federal workers several protections they urgently needed:   

  1. More PPE at government facilities across the country.  
  2. More telework opportunities for more workers during the early days of the pandemic.  
  3. Safer workplaces through implementation of enhanced safety measures.  
  4. Prevention of a premature return to the facility before it is safe to do so.  
  5. Automatic presumption of workplace illness law.  
  6. 17 weeks of COVID-related paid sick leave in 2020 and 2021.  
  7. More funding for OSHA to protect workers against the virus.  

 In a way, what AFGE has won for members serves as a reminder of what our government needs to be doing immediately when there is an outbreak.  

AFGE is proud that, with a few exceptions like the VA and FSIS, most agencies responded to our requests early on and did a respectable job protecting the federal workforce through more liberal telework policies and additional PPE.  

To thank federal workers for keeping our government running during the pandemic, we are calling on Congress and the administration to finally provide hazard pay to these dedicated public servants, without whom life would have been impossible.   

History shows that labor-management collaboration is the key to a successful work environment. Unions are the voice of the employees, and we need a seat at the table when emergency response plans are being established. That is one key conclusion to draw from these events.   

Had the Trump administration not taken such a hostile stance towards federal workers and their representatives, they may have had the same understanding our union had of the issues on the ground and been able to respond more rapidly and effectively. Instead, they tried to deny and denigrate workers who raised concerns, which ultimately cost our country dearly.  

As we move forward, President Biden is taking a different approach. In his first days in office, he rescinded the illegal, anti-union executive orders of the previous administration and made clear that he was serious about addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and in the federal workplace.  

Now that we have the vaccines, AFGE is urging our members to get vaccinated to help end the pandemic.   

 

As we embark on this new era, AFGE is ready to be a real labor partner, and to help empower government employees so that they have the tools and resources they need to serve the American people.  

Missed our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd segments of the series?  

Check them out here:  

#1: Surviving COVID: How AFGE Members Took on a Once-in-a-Century Public Health Crisis  

#2: Surviving COVID: A Deadly New Virus  

#3: Surviving COVID: Fighting and Winning for Front-line Members 


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