Page 6 - Work Force May 2020
P. 6

Health workers care for those who served
CSEA members are working around the clock to provide care to those who served our country in uniform and now reside in state veterans homes, with many facing the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 in their facilities like other public and private nursing homes.
“Our residents are there because they can’t take care of themselves,” Taylor said. “If we’re not there to take care of them, what are they going
to do? We can’t just not go to work because we’re worried. It’s not just about me and my family. People’s lives are at stake.”
McNamara said Montrose workers are working overtime to keep up with staffing challenges and the impact
of the virus. He noted that every CSEA member working there has
an important role and is at risk of exposure. Workers have gotten sick, he added.
“I applaud them for going in there every day and doing the work they do,” McNamara said. “We have CNAs providing direct care. We also have support staff, custodial and food service workers who have regular contact with residents there.”
CSEA Buffalo
State Employees
Local President
Paul Blujus, a
certified nursing
assistant at the
New York State
Veterans Home
in Batavia, said
most workers at
the home have
adjusted to new
protocols and are understandably anxious. As this edition was going press, the Batavia home had no confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“In the meantime, we are doing our
best to take care of our veterans who call this facility home,” he said.
Blujus said the home has received 150 reusable face shields that were donated by a Syracuse company.
“We appreciate the donation of PPE, but we know there is still a great need for a backup supply of PPE equipment,” Blujus said. “Under these circumstances, our members are still showing up prepared for work and getting the job done. It’s the least we can do for the veterans who sacrificed so much and call this facility home.”
At the New York State Veterans Home at Oxford, our members are also working hard to ensure the residents get quality care.
“Being a part of this team is like being part of a big family,” said Kalah Quinn, a Medicaid coordinator at
the home and CSEA activist. “I am proud of each and every one of our members who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic and doing their part to care for those who have fought on the front lines for us.”
— Wendi Bowie, David Galarza, Jessica Ladlee, Ove Overmyer and Nicholas Newcomb
Omar Taylor, a certified nursing assistant (CNA)
at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, said he and his co-workers
are dedicated to providing quality care to residents at the facility.
“We give our residents the full attention that they need during this crisis,” Taylor said. “I do my best to treat them with dignity. The virus
is rampant here. One day, you find out a resident is sick, and the next day you come in for work and that person is gone. It happens quickly here.”
Taylor, who is also a chaplain, is comforting his co-workers and residents.
At the New York State Veterans Home in St. Albans, Queens, essential workers like CSEA member and activist Allyson Baptiste are working around the clock to care and protect residents.
“It’s emotionally
draining,” said Baptiste. “These are my patients.”
Also feeling the impact of COVID-19 are workers and residents at the New York State Veterans Home at Montrose in Westchester County.
“There has been coronavirus
in every wing of the facility,” said Mid-Hudson State Employees Local President Tim McNamara. “There is no area of the home that hasn’t been impacted.”
DMV activists lead fight for safety measures at agency
QUEENS — Dawn Destine is driven, if not determined, to protect our members.
Even before
COVID-19 claimed
the lives of three
of her co-workers,
as the New York
State Department
of Motor Vehicles New York City Unit President, Destine was already securing important protections for her members. But nothing could have prepared her for the pandemic.
“When somebody you work with passes away, it hurts,” Destine said. “You’re also afraid and start to think,
‘what’s going to happen with us?’” Even as the pandemic raged
across the city and forced the closure of DMV offices in neighboring states, New York City DMV offices were still full of customers.
As the number of COVID-19
deaths and cases decline and the state resumes operations, her local has outlined several demands to management, including barriers at the offices to shield workers from the public; protective masks, gloves and hand sanitizer (PPE); temperature pre-screening for customers; requiring appointments; deep cleaning and disinfection of offices and social distancing measures.
Destine is adamant that these
preliminary measures be in place before members return to work.
“There can no longer be any excuses about not prioritizing safety at the offices and the workers in the five boroughs because we are at the epicenter of this pandemic,” said Destine. “If we get one or two days of the DMV as it was, we are going to wind up in quarantine again.”
Before the pandemic, Destine and unit activists had already started securing significant victories for their members, including changes to the instant notification procedure for license examiners and concessions on overtime rules that were imposed with little notice.
“That was a huge victory for
us,” said Destine. “We have made tremendous progress, have become more unified and elevated our issues and concerns.”
Destine’s paramount concern
now is the physical and emotional health and safety of her members. She recalled how one of our members who had passed away from COVID-19, Kaleema McKethan, had recently gotten a promotion and was working as a greeter.
“She loved what she was doing, but didn’t have the protection she deserved,” said Destine. “The DMV has taken us down some roads that we can’t ever go back to. It’s been devastating.”
— David Galarza
 6 The Work Force
May 2020

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