SEIU California


April 9, 2020

Frontline Workers Laud Gov. Newsom’s Bold Leadership and Action on Masks; Lay Out Audacious State Action Plan for PPE Needed to Save Lives from COVID-19

Sacramento, CA — Workers on the frontlines saving lives and serving the most vulnerable as the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to reach California in the coming weeks today called for California to adopt a bold, four-point action plan on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Their plan was introduced on a conference call with the news media this morning and in a letter from the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) California. The plan calls for the state to use its emergency powers to mobilize California’s vast industries into production and work with frontline workers to assess needs and deploy resources, building on the bold action Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday to spur production of sorely needed N95 and surgical masks.

“Against the dark backdrop of this global pandemic, California has been the nation’s bright light, thanks to Governor Newsom’s early action and bold leadership. We are leading the way in saving lives. We need to continue by mobilizing our entire state to get life-saving supplies to the front lines, and we can do even more than we have. When we look back on this moment we will be proud if we have done absolutely everything possible to protect the frontline workers whose courageous work and service are sustaining our communities,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU California and SEIU Local 721.

Facing the worst weeks of this pandemic ahead, healthcare, long-term care and education frontline workers called for aggressive action to deliver billions more pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving supplies to the front lines. These include not just masks but also gloves, shoe coverings, gowns, disinfectants, and ventilators – all of which will be essential to protect and support the frontline workforces serving our communities and fighting the pandemic.

“We have been asking for more protection and not until this week did we get masks. Earlier this week my supervisor asked us to choose: disposable 3M masks that we would have to reuse or a fabric mask that we can take home and wash ourselves. We were not allowed to have both.” said Maria Santa Maria, School Worker who is distributing food in Sacramento. “I’m scared. I don’t want to bring home the virus to my kids. I don’t want to bring home the virus to my daughter who is pregnant.”

The frontline workers represented by SEIU local unions in California asked the State of California to:

  • Immediately direct California’s manufacturing capacity to the production of PPEs and ventilators. Without an adequate supply of PPE and ventilators, our healthcare system could potentially collapse and many healthcare workers and patients will die. California has the legal authority to immediately direct production of PPEs under emergency powers.
  • Create, promote, monitor, and utilize an active feedback system to gather reports on safety conditions from frontline workers. Having a well-publicized, easy-to-access reporting process for frontline workers will provide a real-time assessment of supplies and equipment from workers on the ground and create a map of where shortages are occurring so the state can respond.
  • Provide regular reports on the current inventory of PPE and the status of those supplies. Regular reporting on the status of California’s inventory can help us better identify needs in order to solve PPE and ventilator shortages. This is especially important because the supply numbers from the federal government are often inflated, and many of their supplies are expired.
  • Create a supply chain strike force and designate them as a single point of contact to coordinate the expansion of PPE supply and ensure a comprehensive and equitable distribution process. Our projected demand will outstrip our supply without intervention. The strike force should be tasked with facilitating collaboration between public and private sectors to ensure health care workers have the supplies and resources they need to respond. California’s current response could be enhanced by having a single point of contact where the hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, nursing homes, and the organizations representing those workers can coordinate our response by increasing the supply of PPE and ventilators.

“Our state has been leading the way in taking the necessary precautions to help ‘flatten the curve,’” said Sydnie Boylan, an RN at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.  “We must continue to lead the way, and the governor must take further action so that nurses won’t ever have to be forced to choose between risking their lives and caring for their patients.”


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