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‘We’re Just Here to Make Sure Everybody, No Matter Who You Are, is Taken Care Of’

Previous NJ Behavioral Health Workers Make Voices Heard In Seeking Union Recognition
By Pablo Ros ·
‘We’re Just Here to Make Sure Everybody, No Matter Who You Are, is Taken Care Of’
Donna Ragland

Editor’s note: The following is a story from the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, as told by a member in Columbus, Ohio. This interview was conducted on March 18, shortly after Ohio schools were shut down:

“My name is Donna Ragland. I’m a food service manager, I work in Columbus Downtown High School. I’ve been a manager for 24 years and with the school for 26 years. I’ve been with OAPSE 20-plus years and am vice president of Local 143. I’m from Toledo, Ohio.

We go to our meetings and let the public know they need to stock up on medicine and food and keep some cash on hand. We pay attention to the elderly and make sure our kids are well fed. We make sure to clean everything thoroughly and keep in touch with our locals throughout the city.

We have food at 13 sites so any child of any age can come take breakfast and lunch to take home. Any child, no matter where you’re from or what district you’re in. And if you have siblings at home, you let us know so you can take food home for your other siblings.

We try to keep everybody safe. There’s still a lot of people at work and on the front lines. You have your union out here, doing the work that needs to be done every day. We’re just here to try to make sure everybody, no matter who you are, is taken care of, that everybody is safe.

The schools closed and I will be out at all the sites to make sure everything is there. I’m in constant touch with the OAPSE president and the city schools are in touch with managers to make sure all the kids are safe.

We are taking every precaution, going through all the procedures, wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks. We keep our distance, we are doing everything we can to make sure we can get this virus not to affect anyone.

Somebody’s got to be out there. Our drivers are out there and we are rotating to make sure if anyone is sick, we take their temperatures. We’re making sure everyone is safe.

Custodians are cleaning the buildings from top to bottom, disinfecting everything.

When you’re dealing with food service you’re always in some sort of emergency. I’m very sympathetic to other people’s needs. Whatever the need is, that’s what we’re trying to fulfill.

Everybody has expressed gratitude. I’ve had people who wanted to hug me. People are really thankful. They’re really humbled and it really humbles me. That’s all I want to do, it’s just help. You can see it in their eyes. I’m glad to do anything to help.

As [union] vice president, I am making sure everyone is doing what they need to do in this pandemic, but also making sure they’re available and able to work through our contract. We’re out to do everything we can, Columbus City is living up to our contract.

I am glad that I am a part of this union. As I reiterate to the staff, these are times you can look upon your union and be grateful that they’re there. It’s safety net that not a lot of people have. I keep reiterating these are the things we are fighting for on a daily basis. It’s nice to be good to your fellow brothers and sisters, but not everyone plays nice. We have people out there fighting. This is one of those times I am glad to be sticking with my union.”

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