Custodians Rally for Pandemic Protection

Frontline workers are struggling with lack of PPE

August 27, 2020

Custodians continue to be at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic, cleaning facilities to make them safe for inhabitants. Many of these frontline workers continue to battle for both their safety, seeking access to personal protection equipment (PPE), and their livelihood, in the face of job cuts due to the recession.

After the second death of a Minneapolis/St. Paul custodian from COVID-19, union leaders are demanding elected officials take action to ensure employers provide their cleaning workers with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Leaders with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 held a news conference and vigil this week to remember the deceased custodian and to make their demands, the Star Tribune reports.

The union — which represents 8,000 workers in Minnesota, including 4,000 janitors — is demanding access to adequate PPE, better training to prevent workers from becoming infected, and extra time to wash hands and perform other safety measures. SEIU leaders are also calling for access to COVID-19 testing, pay for workers who are quarantined, and daily uniform laundering. They are urging state and city officials to create an “essential workers council” to improve standards and give workers a venue to communicate COVID-19 concerns.

A recent SEIU survey found that 73% of members were nervous about going to work and 45% had received no training related to COVID-19 safety measures. One in five members said they didn’t have gloves at work and 2 in 5 didn’t have masks.

So far, about 230 SEIU Local 26 union members have tested positive for the virus, including 3% of custodians. The union is asking for immediate notification if a fellow employee tests positive for the virus.


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