What’s the Union Doing During Covid?

Someone asked, “What is the union doing for us right now?”

And I thought I should address that. This is not intended to be a complete list. The union is doing a lot of things.

The most obvious thing we’re doing is communication. I am working hard to make sure all of the information that we get is put out there for you. I’m trying to reach everyone. I’m not doing this alone. William is helping me a great deal.

What I want you to know is this: we’ve had to fight for everything.

They didn’t want to shut down our building. We had to convince them that the mayor shutting down the city was important enough that our building should shut down too. We all agree that it wasn’t shut down for long enough. We all know how this place is. Shutting down the building for safety is not something they like to do.

That is what’s been going on locally. The rest of these matters are being handled at the national level. We are having conference calls with some higher NTEU officials every week to talk to them about the issues we think are most important. But what we all need to understand is most of the things that upset us the most about this situation are happening at all the IRS buildings, and at some other agencies too.

It was pressure from NTEU that convinced them to expand telework. Now there are more employees working from home than ever before. Now, obviously that probably doesn’t make anyone working in the building feel better. I’ll address that soon. But I do want to say, the building IS safer because less people are going in there. There’s more opportunity for distancing and less people coming in means less sick people coming in. I know that’s not all that comforting to someone who has to go in the building and keeps hearing about positive covid cases and is just increasingly anxious. I can only say that things would be a whole lot worse if 5,000 people were in that building every day.

As for high risk conditions, we encouraged management to not require doctor’s notes. Our position is that it’s hard to get into a doctor right now. Could someone be abusing this system? Yes, of course. I’ve heard people are and it makes me very sad. But there could also be someone with cancer or a recent surgery who is really being helped by this. My belief is that an overwhelming majority of people on leave for health conditions need to be on leave for health conditions.

We have convinced them to provide expanded leave for people who have covid or who are taking care of someone with covid. We’re trying to get them to give expanded leave to anyone waiting for test results and so far they haven’t been convinced.

Right now the most important issue to me is hazard pay. NTEU has been and is continuing to pressure members of congress to provide hazard pay for our workers who have to go into our offices. Unfortunately this does take an act of congress, but that is what we are pushing hard for. If not hazard pay, some kind of bonus or a leave award would be good too. Right now they aren’t doing anything for the people that have to go into the building. I know how that feels, I had to work without pay during the shutdown two years ago. We didn’t get anything while most people just stayed home. This is more important than that because there are safety concerns. Of all the issues, this is the single thing I care about the most. I want you to get something for going into that building and I personally bring it up every meeting.

-Daniel Scharpenburg

NTEU Communications Coordinator.


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