Member Story – Laura Slavec
“Having the union and a steward at our worksite helps us get problems solved quicker and get answers to problems as they develop,”
The COVID-19 crisis has shown how important communication and a level of trust between workers and management is, as well as the need to follow regulations. The state’s responses to the crisis have been aimed at protecting workers from exposure. For essential workers, this situation is complicated by a new question: stay safe at home, or risk exposure as part of the recovery program? The balance between the two changes as the crisis develops, and new strategies are developed. Like many essential workers, Laura Slavec, a Dental Assistant in Pelican Bay and SEIU Local 1000 Member, has been working through this question.
“I feel like I am constantly deescalating situations here while trying to stay on top of a constantly changing directive. We’re in a moment that’s never happened before, with all the uncertainty and memos replacing memos,” says Slavec. “We just need to know what the policy is. I have been reaching out to everyone possible to ensure that we have support and peace of mind.”
PPE and safety rules have been in effect in Slavec’s office, which has helped workers remain safe. Because of these regulations, workers are tested and work in an environment that helps minimize exposure, but differences between management’s requests and state directives complicated the situation. “When the directive came out on April 1st, one of my coworkers was been instructed by her doctor to stay home. We initially thought she could stay at home with ATO, which seemed to be going well,” said Slavec. However, this was not a permanent solution for management. “Unfortunately, that lasted all of one day, and now she either has to burn her own time or come back in.
Essential workers are exploring creative solutions to the crisis; no one knows better than they do the consequences of their jobs, and the risks involved. “The directive from our department head said we are permitted to telework, but none of us are currently allowed to do so,” said Slavec. This may actually limit the ability of the office to effectively respond to the crisis over time. “Why is our office fully staffed, waiting around to be compromised? If and when this situation gets worse, if we get sick at that point, we won’t be able to work at full capacity.”
Fortunately, this office’s workers are not alone. Slavec and her coworkers are able to stand together and fight to make sure their ATO and safety requirements are respected, and that they are able to be as effective in the crisis as they can be. “Having the union and a steward at our worksite helps us get problems solved quicker and get answers to problems as they develop,” said Slavec. Communication is key to identifying these problems and more importantly, finding the solution.