BROOKLYN — As the coronavirus spread throughout state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) facilities and agency workers were designated essential, Brooklyn Developmental Center Local President Faye Wilkie-Fields worked around the clock to ensure workers’ safety.
“Through the OPWDD labor-management committee that I chaired, we were instrumental in getting PPE to our members when the pandemic started even though the state was unprepared for this global disaster,” said Wilkie-Fields, who also serves as the CSEA Metropolitan Region recording secretary, chair of CSEA’s statewide Women’s Committee and numerous other leadership roles on every level of our union.
Because of her determination and efficiency in securing these safety supplies and addressing multiple health and safety issues at state facilities and group homes, Wilkie-Fields was honored with this year’s CSEA Danny Donohue Leadership Award for State Government. The award was presented virtually at the recent 111th Annual Delegates Meeting.
“We just wanted to make sure that CSEA members on the front lines as essential workers received all health and safety benefits they deserved while working,” said Wilkie-Fields.
In addition to providing PPE, she also worked with the committee on air quality concerns at the group homes where many individuals had tested positive for the virus.
“I was just doing what I thought we needed to get done,” said Wilkie-Fields.
A recent raise in starting salaries to improve recruitment and retention of direct support workers served as a confirmation and affirmation of the essential nature and importance of these positions.
“That was my biggest victory,” said Wilkie-Fields. “I was pushing for that for almost two years between labor-management and political action. This will help us attract workers for these OPWDD jobs.”
Wilkie-Fields, who herself was hospitalized in August with COVID-19, said her Danny Donohue Leadership Award recognition served as “fuel to keep on pushing and doing the work.”
“I accepted this award on behalf of all the people on the front lines taking care of individuals. It meant more to me that someone saw what we were doing,” said Wilkie-Fields. “That we were noticed.”
— David Galarza