For Immediate Release
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

Union Leaders Say Dire, On-the-Ground Situation Shows Immediate Need for More PPE, Fourth Stimulus Package

From health care workers updating wills before work to recycling masks and wearing garbage bags for gowns, AFSCME leaders detailed stories from the front lines – and solutions including what is needed in a fourth congressional stimulus package to address the short- and long-term needs of communities and front-line workers.

Tuesday, March 31, AFSCME leaders from New York, California and Oregon joined AFSCME President Lee Saunders on a press call to deliver a frank assessment of the dire conditions facing front-line health care workers on the ground. The speakers outlined the immense challenges and threats facing workers and offered short- and long-term solutions to help workers on the front lines and soften the economic fallout of the coronavirus on communities.

They called on Congress and the Trump Administration to ramp up efforts to send Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical equipment to aid public service workers who are rising up to meet the challenge without the resources they need to protect themselves and their communities. AFSCME President Lee Saunders outlined the need for a fourth stimulus package that would include provisions including:

  • An expansion of aid to state and local governments to preserve and expand critical services that will save lives and soften the economic fallout.
  • Provide fiscal relief for workers and protections, including directing OSHA to develop an infectious disease standard to protect our front-line workers to the greatest extent possible; and
  • Include protections like permanent paid sick leave for all workers.

AFSCME will continue to call on President Donald Trump to immediately activate the full measure of the Defense Production Act to expedite the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the front lines, which union leaders said is desperately needed.

Listen to the call

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:

“No matter what, even under the most difficult and dangerous conditions, in the face of adversity and uncertainty, public service workers still answer the call. For all they do – for all their heroic, life-saving efforts – they deserve support and respect. They deserve leadership from the White House that’s as competent and compassionate as they are. They deserve gloves and gowns, masks and swabs, respirators and ventilators – so they can get the job done safely right now, when we need their professionalism and expertise more than ever.”

Stacy Chamberlain, executive director, AFSCME Council 75, said:

“Workers are risking their lives and the lives of their families to treat a virus we don’t even fully understand or know the long-term effects of because that’s what our members do in public service – put patients and clients above themselves. We need a response that will address the full scope of this crisis – not just now, but in the future, because this will intensify. We need personal protective gear IMMEDIATELY; help with state and local budgets in the medium term; and support in the years to come to deal with the long-term fallout of this pandemic.”

Henry A. Garrido, executive director, AFSCME District Council 37, said:

"We desperately, desperately need ventilators in the public hospital system in particular. We have a situation now where respiratory therapists and people represent are not only sharing [ventilators] among two or three patients, but are themselves in need as they get sick…. We’re setting up a morgue in an island (Hart Island) in New York because we don’t have enough space when the bodies are coming in.”

Denise Duncan, RN, president of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) and vice president of nursing for NUHHCE, said:

“We must be concerned about the nurses and health professionals that have health conditions of their own that put them at greater risk when interacting with community and in the workplace. We don’t have an unlimited supply of health care professionals. Social distancing is vital, and the availability of PPE is vital.”