March 20, 2020

Tim Kauffman

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Largest Union of Federal, D.C. Workers Calls for Action to Protect Employees, Residents from Coronavirus

Categories: D.C. Government, Coronavirus


AFGE says D.C. Mayor should enact emergency plans, do more to protect workers

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing federal and D.C. government workers, is calling on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to take more aggressive steps to protect employees and the public from the coronavirus.

“Mayor Bowser needs to conduct an assessment of what essential services are required for D.C. residents during this time of major emergency,” said Eric Bunn, national vice president for AFGE’s 14th District, which represents more than 20,000 D.C. and federal government employees.

Lacking top-down direction, each D.C. agency has been left to respond on its own – resulting in inconsistent implementation of emergency guidelines, Bunn said. Examples include:

  • The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is operating as normal and has failed to provide adequate safety equipment to employees.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles is requiring employees to report to work even though not all services are being conducted, exposing them to potential health hazards.
  • At least nine youth have tested positive for COVID-19 after reporting to the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, where staff have not been provided with adequate protection.

Bowser and Northam should follow the lead of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who has taken aggressive steps statewide to minimize group activity and limit the spread of the virus.

“We realize that some positions are essential, and the city needs these employees to perform critical duties, but it is just as essential for agencies to provide those employees the proper protections to aid in preventing the spread of virus,” Bunn said. “These employees have families too and they must be protected.”

Federal agencies in the District also are putting their essential employees at risk by failing to provide them adequate protections. TSA officers at National Airport are being required to disclose their personal health status, in violation of HIPPA laws, to be considered for leave. Officers at the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency must violate social distancing guidelines to interview offenders inside overcrowded lockup facilities.

“We need all of our elected leaders in the Washington area to work together and take immediate steps to limit exposure to this virus,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “That means shutting down all but the most essential services, and making sure all steps are being taken to protect those employees who must report to work.”

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