Skip to main content

NE Members Speak Out for Better Protections, Clearer Guidelines During Pandemic

Deb Strudl (white shirt) holds the petition NAPE/AFSCME Local 61 delivered to Gov. Pete Ricketts. Photo by: NAPE.
Previous Saunders to Congress: Helping States, Localities Must Be Next on Your Agenda
By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·

As the COVID-19 pandemic extended into April, 1,300 NAPE/AFSCME Local 61 members were hard at work on the front lines, keeping Nebraska’s critical institutions like the departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, Labor, Veterans Affairs and others running so they could seamlessly provide services throughout the crisis.

But a month after Nebraska’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, and after weeks of rolling social distancing guidelines encouraged by Gov. Pete Ricketts to protect Nebraskans, the governor still had not implemented basic safety protocol for public service workers that have become commonplace across the country.

In direct contrast with Ricketts’ “Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” initiatives, many state offices and facilities were still open to the public, workers were still reporting to densely packed offices with no personal protection equipment, and hazard pay still hadn’t been implemented for those workers being exposed to the virus.

After weeks of urging the governor to hear members’ concerns it became clear that Ricketts had no intention of implementing basic protections for Nebraska’s employees.

NAPE/AFSCME Local 61 sprang into action. A team working closely with members, leadership, and NAPE’s government relations team put together a plan to bring member demands directly to the governor, as well as to the people of Nebraska.

Soon, more than 1,600 NAPE members, concerned citizens and public employees signed a petition demanding the government allow public employees to work from home where possible, close state offices to the public and implement a $2 per shift differential as hazard pay. NAPE members delivered the petition to Ricketts’ office on April 15.

NAPE is seeing some early success in the 48 hours after delivering the petition. More than a dozen news articles, television segments and radio stories have covered their demands. A bipartisan group of 14 state senators also signed a letter backing NAPE’s demands. Planning for further action continues.

“This is public service workers coming together to accomplish something they could not do alone,” said Deb Strudl, chairperson of NAPE/Local 61. “Can you imagine if one of us tried to call the governor and make these demands alone? We wouldn’t even get through the receptionist. But when 1,600 of us worked together, the governor, the press, and the legislature have to hear us out.”

Strudl acknowledged the role that nonmembers played as well, adding, “I think we’re going to have a few new members in the coming weeks.”

Related Posts