As each week goes by, I find more and more reasons to take pride in the work PEF members do and to be humbled by the personal sacrifices so many of you are making during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stories of heroism, strength, commitment and compassion are the norm, not the exception, and your efforts to keep the state running and New Yorkers safe has not gone unnoticed. The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on what we always knew to be true, and never has the important work you do every day been more clear.
For the past several weeks, we have focused on ensuring that if you must leave your home and go to work, that your safety is not jeopardized. Once we were able to get the state to agree to allow workers to wear their own masks, we secured and distributed thousands of masks and face shields to worksites around the state. And while we believe it is the employer’s responsibility to provide protective equipment, we stepped in when it became evident that our members were in need of masks to remain safe.
As a result of many, many communications with state commissioners and staff at the Governor’s Officer of Employee Relations (GOER), we have been able to effect some change that has resulted in safer working conditions for our members and the people we serve.
Now, as the governor begins to think in earnest about re-opening the state, we are taking steps to ensure that any return to the workplace is done with our members’ safety as the number one priority.
We began conversations with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and impressed upon her the importance of our input in any re-opening plan. We expressed our concerns about how to achieve social distancing within workplaces, the need for public health tools to prevent the spread or outbreaks of the virus, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to do our jobs safely and a re-imagining of work so that many of you who have successfully telecommuted during this time may continue to do so.
In fact, we are working with GOER right now to negotiate continuances of COVID-19 agreements (such as telecommuting and mandatory PPE) that are set to expire in July.
Finally, I offer you my deepest and heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all you do each and every day. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll let this video speak for itself: Thank you PEF heroes!