Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) can make a life or death difference when it comes to exposure to COVID-19. That’s the message we want UCLA Health to hear this International Workers’ Day. Today, Teamsters Local 2010 is participating in a vigil and “Honk-a-Thon” along with members of other UCLA Unions outside of the Ronald Reagan Medical Center on the Westwood campus, to mourn the COVID-19 related death of Teamsters 2010 member and UCLA electrician Emmanuel Gomez and demand appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all UCLA workers.
“We are devastated by the death of our brother Emmanuel Gomez,” said Teamsters Local 2010 Union Steward Laura Newman, who is a Facilities Service Engineer at UCLA. “We don’t know how Emmanuel contracted COVID-19, but appropriate PPE can make a life or death difference. UCLA needs to provide PPE to all workers at risk. Period.”
According to Newman, it took multiple demands by Teamsters 2010 and more than a month went by before the university fit-tested and trained the majority of Skilled Trades workers in her unit on the use of N95 respirators, even though these employees work in and around the hospital where they are at-risk of COVID-19 exposure. To add insult to injury, when workers received their N95 masks, they were a different N95 model than the one for which they were fit-tested and trained.
“A world-class facility like UCLA Health should have a rock-solid plan in place to protect workers from exposure to disease,” said Teamsters Local 2010 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Rabinowitz. “Private sector and other public sector hospitals statewide are required to have a full Aerosol Transmissible Disease Exposure Control Plan filed with Cal/OSHA that includes PPE such as respirators and training on their use. The UC is acting irresponsibly in their stance that they do not have to follow state regulations and are putting workers and the community at risk.”
UCLA’s slow action in providing PPE and training for workers isn’t the only issue putting workers at-risk. Some UCLA Health managers on campus and at off-site outpatient clinics still require some workers to continue reporting to their facility when their work could be done more safely from home.
Teamsters Local 2010 member Trinette Ford, a UCLA Health Administrative Assistant and member of Teamsters Local 2010 Clerical Unit, pointed out that thousands of administrative assistants at UCLA have been needlessly kept at worksites and in harm’s way due to UCLA’s resistance to allowing these employees to work from home. Administrative staff work behind the scenes fielding calls from patients and doctors, working with medical insurance companies, preparing statements and sending out billing, and scheduling appointments.
“UCLA Health’s dirty little secret is that we are herded into the back offices, crammed into elevators, using common breakrooms, and sharing bathrooms with the public,” Ford said. “COVID-19 testing is being done in many of our outpatient clinic locations and we are at high-risk for unnecessary exposure.”
Teamsters Local 2010 calls on UCLA administration to protect its workers from more exposure and the spread of COVID -19 by allowing remote work for all of those whose duties can be performed off-site, and to immediately provide appropriate PPE and training to the essential workers who must continue to work at their facilities.
Click here to see pictures.