WASHINGTON – Responding to the administration’s guidance for actively resuming normal government operations “to the maximum extent possible,” the American Federation of Government Employees has delivered a set of preconditions that must be met before any reopening can occur.
The preconditions include universal testing for COVID-19, using science-based and objective standards for the safe return to worksites, treating all workers equally in terms of their risk of exposure, full compliance with OSHA and CDC guidelines and adequate protective supplies at all worksites, removal of symptomatic employees and those reporting contact with infected workers, and compliance with any and all bargaining obligations.
“Every precaution must be taken to protect human lives as the first consideration in any attempt to reopen the agencies and the economy at large,” AFGE President Everett Kelley wrote in a letter to administration officials.
“Our front-line healthcare and public safety workers in federal agencies are everyday heroes who brave the normal risks to their health and safety when they perform their regular duties. This, however, does not relieve the federal government from the obligation to do its utmost to protect all federal workers from avoidable harm in this unprecedented crisis and its aftermath. This principle must be the basis of any and all plans to ‘open up America.’”
AFGE relayed its demands in separate April 22 letters to Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Michael Rigas, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management.
On April 20, the two acting directors issued a memorandum detailing guidance for reopening government operations, following the April 17 release by the White House of national guidelines entitled “Opening Up America Again.”
“I must strongly rebuke the administration for publishing a set of guidelines that is both pre-mature and imprudent,” Kelley said in the letter. “These guidelines would, if implemented too soon, worsen the crisis, and unnecessarily expose millions of Americans to illness and potentially, to death. Human life is precious, and we must protect the health and safety of our government workforce.”