1. Collect information in writing about what is available and what is not
Your workplace should have enough personal protective equipment (PPE), but, as the CDC reports, “Major distributors in the United States have reported shortages of PPE, specifically N95 respirators, facemasks, and gowns.” That means we need to track what we have and what we don’t to advocate for enough PPE. Check your inventory, to see if you have enough of the following, for employees dealing with those who have contracted the virus:
If you don’t have enough for all staff to use and replace as needed, make a comprehensive list of what is missing.
2. Share information with The Agency, in writing, letting them know of the shortages
The agency needs to know what the shortages are in order to respond to them. If the agency already knows but isn’t taking the steps it needs to try to provide the necessary equipment, we need it in writing that we informed them.
Send the list, in person and in email, to direct supervisors, facility directors and upper agency management. Let them know you need a response ASAP. Let them know that the health of the employees, the public and the ability to achieve the agency’s mission relies upon a safe and able staff, and that lack of PPE in the face of a pandemic assures that won’t be the case.
3. Notify your Local, Council, District and National
Every level of AFGE is working as hard as it can to address this crisis, and every level of the organization can bring different resources and assistance to bear. Let your local, council and district know immediately. Get assistance with representation, mobilizing and pressure. Let national know- fill out an agency survey so we can track the spread, develop and deploy resources and guidance. Every minute counts in this crisis, and everybody needs to share information for rapid responses.
4. File an OSHA Complaint
OSHA requires your agency to provide sufficient PPE necessary to keep you and your coworkers safe. If they aren’t meeting that obligation, use the short template below to file a complaint:
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.
In this issue the agency is guilty of violating 29 CFR 1960.08 were the agency failed to furnish employment and a place of employment which were
free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Employees have seen shortages at (Workplace name and address), where employees are exposed to COVID-19, and have a shortage of (items with a shortage). We notified the agency of the shortages on (date of notice of shortages to agency) and have not received the necessary PPE.
5. Notify your coworkers, get them involved
Every member of the bargaining unit needs to know that the Agency isn’t providing enough PPE to keep exposed employees safe, whether they are amongst the employees who are being exposed or not.
a. Draft newsletters and leaflets and emails to home addresses to let the staff know
b. Hold video/teleconference membership meetings to solicit input and involvement as we push for a safe workplace- this Union belongs to all the bargaining unit members and we need everybody involved
c. Get potential members to join AFGE and work with the only group trying to keep federal employees and the public safe from the agency’s failure to provide PPE
6. Grieve it!
Your Agency has an obligation under contract and law to keep your workplace safe. Contact your district for assistance in drafting a grievance to demand the agency provide enough PPE.
7. Contact the Press
The community you live and work in deserves to know – needs to know- that your agency is sending employees home into their neighborhood having been exposed to the spread of COVID-19 without the necessary PPE. They need to know that the Union worked hard to get the agency to remedy the shortage, and that they haven’t done it.
Reach out to your district and AFGE’s communications department for assistance.