Facing COVID surge, Oakland Workers March on the Boss, Demand Safety
For the past several weeks, there has been a surge in positive COVID cases at the 1515 Clay Street Building in Oakland, with seemingly no end in sight. There have been multiple outbreaks (3 or more cases in 14 days) across multiple floors and suites. Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) employees in the most-affected suites have voiced their concerns to Management repeatedly and consistently over these hazardous working conditions. They feel Management’s lack of timely and decisive action and failure to reinstate safety measures are directly endangering workers’ health.
Workers Take Action
On the morning of June 21, 2022, the majority of employees at 1515 Clay Street, Oakland, in the fourth floor suite, continued the protest about the failure of timely and effective action from the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) in regard to COVID outbreaks and “Marched on the Boss” to deliver more grievances regarding health and safety violations. Even non-DIR employees showed support and joined the March. The grievances were handed over to the Chief Information Officer of DIR, and members expressed their concern to him over their safety in having to come to work every day while COVID outbreaks are still occurring, and the COVID positivity rate in California exceeds 10 percent and is climbing.
DIR Labor Relations reached out to Local 1000 job stewards and invited them to speak about employee concerns. In the afternoon of June 21, the LRO met with Union staff and Job Steward Amy Dickinson and shared that SEIU Local 1000 doesn’t believe in the concept of acceptable losses. Our position is that even one member dying or being debilitated because of unnecessarily catching COVID in the building is one too many, and if this happens, Local 1000 will hold Management solely responsible. The Labor Relations Officer said that DIR is moving to an evidence-based system to determining office closures for COVID; Union staff told her that it is ironic because the evidence shows there have been multiple outbreaks in the building. She asked for detailed feedback that she could take back to Management. Local 1000 is working on those details at the time of this email release.
Even under these frightening conditions, employees are still required to come into the office with no adjustments for reduced and/or rotational staffing or social distancing. Furthermore, employees do not receive all of the alerts of positive cases in the building, communication often lacks consistency and timeliness, yet management wants employees to believe they are safe and doing everything they can to mitigate COVID in the offices. Something is terribly amiss when policies and procedures that were in place at the peak of the pandemic are not being re-instituted despite the fact that ALL trigger points have been met.
Veteran Job Steward and Information Technology Associate Amy Dickinson said: “The recurring COVID outbreaks on the 15th and 18th floor prove that depending on your supervisor to ‘do the right thing for your group’ is a roll of the dice. We need a statewide response to office COVID outbreaks that both informs and keeps ALL workers safe. With this latest action, we just got a lot closer to dictating that statewide response.”
Our next planned Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC) meeting is on July 15, where we will continue to advocate for members. We refuse to accept the rationale that because COVID related deaths are down and more people are vaccinated, that this absolves agencies from doing everything it can reasonably to address employee concerns on their health and safety.
What you can do to take action
If you have ideas on potential JLMC agenda issues or topics that you believe are widely held and deeply felt by many DIR employees, reach out to any of the job stewards listed below.
If you do not believe that your Management is properly protecting
its workers and controlling COVID in the building by using
reasonable common sense safety measures, PLEASE contact us, as we
plan on delivering the third batch of grievances to
SEIU Local 1000 Organizer, Kevin Davis