🔥‘We need you to step up’: Missouri union leaders fault Parson’s handling of crisis🔥

‘we-need-you-to-step-up’:-missouri-union-leaders-fault-parson’s-handling-of-crisis

‘We need you to step up’: Missouri union leaders fault Parson’s handling of crisis

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson stands alongside Columbia Mayor Brian Treece to announce the first known C0VID-19 death in Missouri on Wednesday, March 18, outside his office at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. The patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Boone County, which includes Columbia, and contracted the disease through travel.  Photo by Laurie Skrivan, [email protected] 

Laurie Skrivan

JEFFERSON CITY — Labor unions representing a wide range of workers who are providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic have fired off lists of demands to Gov. Mike Parson as his administration responds to the outbreak.So far, labor leaders say they are not satisfied with his response.Upon hearing Wednesday that Parson would not classify grocery workers as “first responders” — which the local grocers union said should give its workers priority access to testing, wage reimbursement and state-provided security at stores — the head of the union blasted Parson on Twitter.“Give the hard-working men and women in grocery stores temporary additional benefits while they serve the public. They don’t need lip service, they need our action,” said David Cook, president of Local 655 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.But, he said, “You can still do the right thing.”The demands — and the Parson’s hesitation or refusal to meet all of them — underscore the distant relationship the Republican governor has had with labor during his political career.The governor supported a right-to-work law, but unions, demonstrating their continued influence in Missouri, launched a multi-million dollar effort to defeat it at the ballot box.The Missouri Corrections Officers Association has scrapped with the Parson administration in recent months, saying the state’s decision to stop withholding union dues from paychecks during contract negotiations was an effort to bust the union.The correctional officers association endorsed ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, in 2016; other unions now criticizing Parson have typically supported Democrats.And their demands and criticisms keep rolling in.A representative for the Corrections Officers Association said the state Department of Corrections hasn’t been responsive to the union’s concerns.Tim Cutt, a union representative, said Thursday there was “very little” protective equipment available to officers “outside of the medical unit.”He said that despite the state suspending visitation at prisons, too many people were still moving in and out.Karen Pojmann, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the department had obtained enough thermometers to check the temperatures of people entering prisons. Previously, the department was screening people by asking health-related questions, which Cutt said wasn’t enough.“If it gets inside the prisons, it’ll burn through like wildfire,” Cutt said.So far, Missouri has reported one COVID-19 case within the prison system: an inmate at the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph, who was admitted to a Kansas City-area hospital March 19.Parson’s office did not respond to a question Thursday about whether his administration was doing enough to protect workers.The local SEIU Healthcare chapter, representing health care, child care, home care and nursing home workers, on Thursday called for a statewide stay-at-home order, which they said would keep workers and the public at large safe.Parson said Thursday he still would not issue a such an order, adding that counties heavily affected had already issued them.The union also wants increased access to personal protective equipment and better training for employees who could be exposed to the virus.“Some of our members do not have access to goggles or disposable full-face shields, gowns and non-sterile gloves. We have also heard that at some workplaces, workers are being forced to reuse their masks,” Caprice Nevils, a care partner at St. Louis University Hospital and board member of the local SEIU Healthcare chapter, said during a video news conference on Thursday.“Governor Parson, we need you to step up at this crucial moment and make sure that we are equipped to deal with this deadly disease,” she said.The director of the Department of Public Safety said Tuesday the state had placed orders for $17.3 million worth of in personal protective equipment; on Wednesday, she said the state had devoted another $11 million to buying such equipment.“It is the No. 1 issue we are hearing about,” Director Sandra Karsten said Tuesday.The AFL-CIO of Missouri on Wednesday said it was “pleased” Parson had waived the state’s one-week waiting period for unemployment claims during the outbreak, but said the governor had “failed to do enough to lead and protect our working families during this crisis.”The state is also temporarily waiving work-search requirements for people who lose their jobs because of COVID-19. Normally, people receiving unemployment benefits are required to make at least three attempts to find work every week and report them to the state.On Thursday, the AFL-CIO of Missouri sent more demands to Parson, including that he designate home health care workers, building and construction trade workers, grocery store workers, prison guards, convenient and gas station workers and others as “first responders.”The union also wants Parson to direct employers to provide health coverage to employees who test positive for COVID-19, provide 14 days of paid sick leave to workers, and to bar discipline against employees who stay home during the outbreak because they or a family member are at high-risk of contracting the virus.The SEIU issued similar demands, asking that the governor advocate for hazard pay, 15 days of paid sick time for health care workers, and employer-paid health care that covers COVID-19 testing and treatment.When asked how the governor could mandate these things from private employers, Lenny Jones, vice president and state director of the health care union, said “he can make very strong recommendations that employers should do those things.”He said Parson could potentially set up an emergency fund that “would provide assistance to some employers who may need help getting that taken care of.”Jones said ensuring paid sick time, and coverage for testing and treatment, would help slow the spread of the disease.“Workers shouldn’t be fearful of getting a test or finding out they have the disease because they can’t afford the test or they can’t afford the medical care,” he said. “We’ve got to take that off the table.” 

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson stands alongside Columbia Mayor Brian Treece to announce the first known C0VID-19 death in Missouri on Wednesday, March 18, outside his office at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. The patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Boone County, which includes Columbia, and contracted the disease through travel.  Photo by Laurie Skrivan, [email protected] 

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