Good evening sisters and brothers,

Your union is working diligently to respond to COVID-19 concerns, and to ensure that our rights to a safe workplace are upheld as we traverse these uncharted waters.

AMEA leadership has reached out to MOA leadership and signaled our intention to work collaboratively to ensure members and the public are protected during this crisis. We are aggressively lobbying for paid emergency leave, telecommuting where possible, staggered shifts, social distancing practices in the workplace, the provision of personal protective equipment, and the minimization of risk in all ways possible.

There are a few common questions we have been receiving that I would like to address so we are all on the same page:

1)     What are the current recommended best practices? How do I know what is going on or what to do?
Our national union AFSCME has put together a wonderful resource of information that is constantly updated. This page will have the most up-to-date information about the pandemic, what other unions are doing, how to stay safe, and information about what our International is doing nationally to ensure workers are protected. Additionally, we will be using our website & Facebook page (@AMEALocal16) to provide up-to-date information as we learn it, so be sure to check there if you can.

2)     Can I work from home?
We are currently working with the MOA to ensure that all AMEA employees who can perform their duties from home are granted the ability to. The MOA had initially stated that represented employees are ineligible, because they were likely afraid of unions filing an unfair labor practice charge regarding a unilateral change in working conditions. We have expressed to the MOA that we have no intention of doing so – and that we are willing to sign a letter of agreement stating such. This should be completed very soon. However – due to the nature of some jobs, and the limited national availability of telecommunication equipment – not all AMEA members will be able to work from home. Please let us know how your supervisors approach this issue, as we want to ensure that EVERYONE who is capable of working from home be afforded that opportunity should it be possible. Additionally – if you are a high risk group (such as someone who is immunocompromised), you may be covered under the ADA Reasonable Accommodations provision to be allowed to work from home. Contact Paul Deery in HR if you believe you may qualify.

3)     What if I get sick?
If you are sick, live with someone who is sick, or have other reasons to consider you are high-risk – please contact your supervisor and a union representative as soon as possible. It is in the best interest of everyone that those who are sick do not come to work. Currently, the MOA’s policy is that those who stay home are to use leave, and that leave donation is available for those without accumulated leave. We are pushing for paid emergency leave regardless of leave balance, so that folks that can’t afford to use leave or LWOP aren’t incentivized to come to work anyway. We will continue working towards this goal, as it is in the best interest of public health to ensure that our city workers stay as healthy as possible.

4)     I don’t feel safe in my workplace, what do I do?
Many of us are in roles were we are in contact with the public, touch surfaces that may not be sterilized, or feel like there should be more protective equipment to ensure our safety. These concerns are my top priority as your president – I have informed the MOA that we intend to aggressively defend the safety of our members – and have been met with strong agreement to that end. The MOA knows that if we get sick – our jobs won’t get done and the public won’t be able to be served. For that reason, the MOA has signaled a strong willingness to listen to our safety concerns and rectify them as soon as possible. So please document any safety concerns in the workplace and let a union steward know about them. Talk with your coworkers to collaborate on what could be improved. The more of us that band together, the faster we can solve problems as they arise.

For example, some employees are still dealing with the public – but at close quarters without social distancing. We are asking that HR inform all supervisors that any public interaction must conform to the CDC recommended social distancing protocols. If you need protective equipment, if you need handwashing time, if you need anything that will improve your safety – we will fight for you to get it. The more of us that join the call for workplace safety, the better off we will be.

5)     I have a concern you haven’t addressed here. What are you doing about it?
The situation is changing hourly and there are hundreds of issues to address. We absolutely want to assist you in any way we can. If you have a suggestion for something that should be done, an idea for how to do it, or want to report something that shouldn’t be happening – please contact us immediately. Send an email to [email protected]; call or text the AMEA President phone @ 907.205.9106, use the contact form on the AMEA website, or talk to a shop steward.

AMEA is joining other local unions in calling for our government to announce a policy of minimizing direct contract between employees and the public wherever possible, to provide employees that face office closures or orders to stay home with paid administrative leave, to make telecommuting mandatory and available to all who can perform their duties from home, to ensure that essential personnel are fairly compensated, and to ensure that all employees have access to proper safety equipment, cleaning supplies, and infection prevention training.

We are all in this together. If we work together to find solutions to the problems we face, we will prevail. So please, print this email, send it to coworkers, put it on bulletin boards, and stay in contact regarding your concerns in the workplace. If you see what other governments, unions, businesses, or groups are doing elsewhere that we should be doing here – let us know. Share with your union, your coworkers, and your supervisors. We will band together and fight to ensure that we have a safe environment in which to conduct our work and serve the public. Together, we can come up with the solutions to the problems we are facing.

In solidarity,

Brandon Fifer
AMEA President