UPDATE: AMEA & COVID-19

Union family – thank you for your responses to the previous communication. I want to update you today about what has been happening with AMEA, the MOA, and National actions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, I want to give you a list of concerns that were reported to AMEA leadership. We have communicated these concerns to the MOA, and have been assured that our concerns will be addressed.

I am asking you to monitor these things and let us know how they are being addressed in your work units. We need to know what is and is not happening on the ground, so we can press those with the authority to make changes happen.

Concerns reported by AMEA Members:

1)     Lacking the ability to telecommute: An agreement was signed with the MOA that allows AMEA members to telecommute during the time we are under emergency declaration. It is not a guarantee that all will be granted telecommute status, but it puts in place the frameworks for us to be able to work from home. Most members who can will telecommute partially, and report to work areas partially. This is in-line with recommendations to stagger shifts in the workplace and maintain social distance.

2)     Employees concerned that work areas remain open to public access: The MOA has stated that almost all areas with public contact have been closed to the public. Please let AMEA know if your area is still open to the public. If your work area is one that is likely to remain open due to its function, such as public health, please let us know what safety precautions are in place and which are needed. If your work area is to remain open, we will fight for the greatest amount of safety that is humanly possible to be implemented.

3)     Employees concerned about sanitization of common areas, KABA clocks, elevator buttons, and bathrooms: The MOA has stated that janitorial staff have been told to increase cleaning measures and wipe more surfaces down with sanitization solutions. Please let us know if there are areas in your workplace that you believe are not being sanitized enough or at all.

4)     Lack of/shortage of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and social distance in the workplace: The MOA has committed to devoting resources to providing more of these items in your workplaces, and to instruct supervisors to maintain work practices that allow for social distancing. If you are in close quarters with your coworkers, please work to ensure social distancing protocols, and let us know if you run into roadblocks. See the end of this message for a fun example of social distancing from AMEA Vice President Christine Metcalf.

5)     Lack of ability to stagger shifts in the workplace: The MOA has stated that departments are currently working to implement the staggered shift staffing models and there are improvements being made. Please let us know if your workplace is being held to regular schedules when you and your coworkers could be staggering shifts and still getting your work done.

6)     Employees in some divisions getting radio silence from their supervisors regarding safety protocols or changes: Individual supervisors were identified and provided guidance on communicating COVID-19 related safety and work-rule training to employees. If you are concerned that your supervisor is not doing enough to inform you and your coworkers about what’s going on, or is not changing workplace practices to enhance safety, let us know.

7)     Employees in public health not being given proper safety equipment or training: We have requested that all public health employees interfacing with the public be given fitted N95 masks. We are currently urging the MOA to make this happen. If you are in public health, please let us know of what is being done, and what else can be done to ensure your safety on the job. You are on the front lines – and deserve to have the greatest amount of safety precautions possible.

8)     Employees who recently travelled remaining at work: Many members have reported that coworkers have recently travelled yet remain at work. AMEA has told the MOA that they should immediately instruct supervisors to send employees who have recently travelled home – as is now mandated by the State of Alaska. Please let us know if this does not happen in your workplace.

9)     Lack of childcare and the need for leave: Many members are being impacted by the closures of school and other childcare options, and are struggling to meet these unanticipated needs and continue to come to work. AMEA has urged the MOA to allow members demonstrating this need to receive paid admin leave, but have so far been met with the response that for admin leave to be given – employees must be readily available to report to work and reachable for business during the regularly scheduled shift – saying that employees who are sick, and or off work to provide childcare would not meet this criteria. We will continue urging the MOA to change its policy on these matters, but luckily, the next topic of this email will provide some additional options for members with these concerns.

National actions around COVID-19:

The COVID-19 response bill passed by the House and Senate yesterday contains many provisions that will provide enhanced protections and options for those of us in the public sector. I have attached some fact sheets produced by our national union that will help you understand these new options. Governments like the MOA are required to be in compliance by 4/2/20, so there may be some delay in getting these implemented – but hopefully the MOA complies sooner rather than later.

The gist of these changes is that the Federal Government has mandated more funding to states to deal with the crisis, tests for COVID-19 to be no cost for most people, enhanced unemployment insurance provisions, enhanced food assistance provisions, the mandate of paid emergency leave and emergency family leave for people in quarantine, experiencing symptoms, caring for someone sick or in quarantine, or affected by lack of childcare due to school closures. There are various rules around this, and the protections do not apply to many private sector workers – but government employers must abide by them. Please see the fact sheets to learn about this in more detail.

PDF iconnew_leave_requirements_03.19.2020.pdf
new_leave_requirements_03.19.2020.pdf

PDF icon2nd_covid-19_supp.pdf
2nd_covid-19_supp.pdf

AMEA will be working to ensure that the MOA complies with these mandates and does all it can to protect our workforce.

AMEA practicing social distancing in the workplace:

Many of us are continuing to come to work and devote our energies to serving the public, pandemic or no. We know that we make Anchorage happen, and are working tirelessly to preserve the public health. However, it is important that we remember the recommendations to limit contact, maintain social distance, and isolate as much as possible to prevent needlessly spreading the virus. These actions will help reduce the rate of infection and ease the burden on our healthcare system – saving lives.

It can be difficult to understand exactly how to socially distance oneself when continuing to work. The CDC has issued guidance to avoid close contact, which they have defined as being within 6 feet of someone that could transmit COVID-19. It can be tough to visualize this 6 foot rule of social distance. This is why AMEA Vice President Christine Metcalf has helpfully decided to visually demonstrate how far to socially distance oneself in the workplace. (Please see your email for the pictures).


 

 AFSCME wants to hear from you!

Our national union AFSCME has asked that members on the front lines of public service during these turbulent times share their stories. They are working to advocate for provisions that will protect us all, and sharing your story will help them do it. Please see below to learn more.

 AFSCME members are on the front lines, doing what we always do: putting our communities first. The American public needs to hear our stories.  Your dedication and sacrifices keep America safe and healthy. Your work, always vital, is even more critical when crisis strikes.  Send us a short cell phone video of you on the job that shows how you’re serving the community during the coronavirus pandemic. 

 Visit this webpage to record your video directly from your cell phone or laptop: https://www.afscme.org/covid-19/share-your-story.

 Don’t worry, we’ve made it easy with these simple instructions:

  • Click this link to be taken to a webpage where you can record your video
  • Use your cell phone or a computer camera while you are on the job
  • Keep videos under 30s
  • Say your first name, your council and your city
  • Use respectful language and tone
  • Record from a quiet spot

Thank you,
Brandon Fifer
AMEA President