March 18, 2020: Update from President Yestramski

These are unprecedented times that require bold action. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted our daily lives, and most Washingtonians are concerned not only about their safety, but their economic security as well.

As public employees, we are uniquely positioned to lead during this crisis. Across all departments/agencies, we are doing what we can to keep ourselves and the public safe while continuing to do our jobs. 

So far, the Governor's office and state HR have implemented many of our union's recommendations, including our calls for telework and expanded leave. But they have more work to do, as do administrators in higher ed. 

We hear your concerns and will continue to push elected officials and management to do what's right. This Sunday, our union's executive director, Leanne Kunze, delivered a list of additional recommendations to the Governor's Office and state HR based on what we're hearing from you:

  • Statewide moratorium on evictions
  • Prohibition of utility shut-offs
  • Prohibition of rent increases
  • Purchasing limits on basic needs items (food, sanitary items, etc.)
  • Consideration of emergency basic income
  • Expansion of basic internet access as a public benefit for online education and increased opportunity for telework
  • Expanded paid leave for those who have exhausted accrued leave and are unable to telework because they lack childcare, are a high public health risk, or are experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms
  • Increased push for statewide voluntary social isolation (e.g., limit travel to known infected areas to help flatten the curve)
  • Proper PPE for UW and Harborview employees and an end to improper rationing
  • Training for UW staff on latest guidance to be provided in additional languages (e.g., 15-minute shift meetings with interpreters would be helpful for staff, and coordination with WFSE-represented HCA interpreters is recommended)
  • Updated guidance on leave and benefits posted for workers in writing and in additional languages
  • Mandatory adherence to guidance for airborne contagions (vs. mist) in institutions and higher ed, especially when cleaning rooms of infected patients
  • A mandate for WA institutions to follow guidance for PPE and hazard protocol for cleaning patient rooms
  • A waiver to allow HCA and DSHS interpreters to conduct interpreting services using social distancing guidelines at the same pay rate as if in person
  • Expanded unemployment insurance for independent providers
  • Suspension of non-emergent community visits

We will keep you posted with developments. 

Again, I urge everyone to follow public health guidance and to think particularly about the most vulnerable people in our communities. They need us to continue to lead during this crisis. If you see something that isn't right, speak up.

If you have evidence that your employer is not following public health guidance, please contact your shop steward immediately. If you cannot reach your steward, please contact our Member Connection Center at 833-MCC-WFSE or [email protected].

By working together, we will get through this.