Benefits & Services

Union Leadership





Find a vaccine location near you: https://myhealth.alaska.gov/appointment/en/clinic/search

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection caused by a novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. We will provide updates on COVID-19 as this public health matter unfolds. Public health officials anticipate that the virus will spread, so it’s imperative that everyone stay informed and follow good hygiene practices.

COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Protections for Certain Health Care Workers (June 16, 2021)

pdf COVID-19 Coronavirus Basics for Front Line Employees (Feb. 28, 2020) (149 KB)

pdf COVID-19 Coronavirus Industry Best Practices (Feb. 28, 2020) (155 KB)

pdf Alaska DHSS Preparedness for COVID-19

Alaska Div. of Personnel & Labor Relations FAQ for COVID-19

September 28, 2021

ASEA hosted a worksite meeting with AFSCME Health and Safety Specialist, Keith Wrightson, to discuss the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard that impacted certain healthcare professionals. The documents, slides, and additional resources, including FAQs are listed below:

Thank you for attending/registering for the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) worksite meeting. Please forgive the delayed response in getting this important information to you.

Below is a link to a downloadable PDF document of Keith Wrightson’s slide presentation with notes:


ASEA worked to get the most up-to-date information to you regarding the process for accessing the Medical Removal Protection (MRB) benefit including COVID-19 leave reimbursement for impacted employees. It was ASEA’s hope that the State would put together instructions and communications for their employees that fall under the new ETS. Unfortunately, those documents and communications were not issued.

Below, we include answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs), which include the latest information available regarding COVID-19 leave, and links to important documents that were referenced during the training. Please don’t hesitate to contact ASEA: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with additional questions. 

FAQ re OSHA’s COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard for Certain Healthcare Workers

  1. What is the OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and what types of workers and worksites are covered?

The ETS was published on June 21, 2021, to protect healthcare workers that are at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their jobs. This includes Public Employees that provide healthcare services to patients that are confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. This also includes healthcare support staff that come into contact with COVID-19 confirmed or suspected patients.

The State of Alaska has identified that employees providing direct healthcare services or support services that meet the above criteria and work in the following worksites may be covered under the OSHA COVID-19 ETS and may be eligible to receive Medical Removal Protection Benefits (see Question Number 3):

  • Alaska Pioneer Homes, 
  • the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API), 
  • Medical clinics within Juvenile Justice facilities, 
  • Medical clinics within Correction facilities,
  • and certain Public Health staff working in Public Health centers (including administrative staff who work on-site). 
  1. What are  Medical Removal Protection (MRP) Benefits and who is eligible?

    The Medical Removal Protection Benefits exist to keep workers whole for instances when removal from the workplace is required due to COVID-19 related reasons including when a worker:

    -- Tests positive for COVID-19; or
    -- Has been told by a healthcare provider that they are suspected to have COVID-19; or
    -- Is suspected to have COVID-19 or is experiencing recent loss of taste and/or smell, with no other explanation; or are experiencing both fever (≥100.4° F) and new unexplained cough associated with shortness of breath; or
    -- The employer notified the worker of close contact in the workplace to a person who is COVID-19 positive, UNLESS the employee has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (i.e., 2 weeks or more following the final dose), or had COVID-19 and recovered within the past 3 months, - -- AND the employee does not experience the symptoms listed above.

    For more details, please review the OSHA ETS MRP Flow Chart

    Please note that OSHA COVID-19 ETS leave is not the same as COVID Leave* limited to certain employees in the Departments of Health & Social Services and Corrections.

    *COVID leave was a specific state policy that was available to all SOA employees and was discontinued on June 11, 2021. It is not the same as OSHA COVID-19 ETS leave.

  2. Do MRP benefits include reimbursement of personal leave if used for a COVID-19 reason, after the OSHA COVID-19 ETS went into effect?

    No. No paid leave will be reimbursed even if it was used for a COVID-19 related purpose. The MRP benefits only kick in after all other paid leave has been used.

  3. When will the Paid Time Off (PTO) be reimbursed? Will it be put back as PTO hours?

    See the answer for Question Number 3, above.

  4. Do the MRP benefits cover employees who experience COVID-19 symptoms, and were instructed to go home and not return until receiving their COVID-19 test result, even if the test result is negative?

    Yes, the MRP benefits will cover employees that are removed from the workplace because they are experiencing recent loss of taste and/or smell, with no other explanation; or are experiencing both fever (≥100.4° F) and new unexplained cough associated with shortness of breath, including meeting the criteria addressed in Question Number 3.

  5. What will happen with hours that were donated to individuals that were out for COVID-19 and if they were donated anonymously... Will or can they be re-donated back?

    Donated leave hours will not be returned to the donor unless they are not used within 3 pay periods then those hours will be returned to the donor.  

  6. Is there protection or accommodations for those who are home due to a child being sent home from school due to potential exposure? 

    Unfortunately, no. At this time, there is no reimbursement or general accommodation for families that must stay home to be with their children under the ETS. Telework agreements may be available if your job is telework-eligible, pending your supervisor’s approval. 

  7. Does the ETS apply to an administrative employee in the public health centers where vaccinations are taking place?

    Depending on the scope criteria, the ETS may apply to employees in this circumstance. If your worksite is covered, there should be OSHA ETS information at your worksite. To be sure about your specific situation, we encourage you to ask your supervisor or contact ASEA/AFSCME Local 52. You may also visit: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4125.pdf   

  8. If I am an administrative employee in a public health center, but do not provide direct care to COVID-19 patients, do I qualify for the benefits under the ETS? We pass patients in the hallway that may be getting vaccinated or at the clinic for other non-covid services.

    See the answer for Question Number 8.

  9. If I am not a healthcare provider and do not provide supportive administrative duties to health care providers, but work in a facility where there are COVID-19 confirmed or suspected patients and am in contact with those patients, do I qualify for the ETS benefits? 

    See the answer for Question Number 8. 


The following are OSHA ETS forms and documents shared during the presentation:

The following are COVID related links shared during the presentation:

July 23, 2021

Jake Metcalfe requested information and action from the SOA re COVID-19 leave for GGU employees with the rise in cases due to the delta variant. See the email below:

Hi Kate:

Brian Penner of APEA/AFT shared with me your email response concerning his question about COVID-19 leave for public employees. I’m disappointed the SOA is no longer providing COVID-19 leave. The delta variant is real and wreaking havoc all over Alaska (Sitka and Cordova are examples) with positive cases increasing exponentially.  From a public safety standpoint, you would think the SOA would help its sick employees get better by making sure they stay out of the workplace and away from the public until they are free from the virus. Without providing leave, employees may be forced back to work sooner than necessary or go out into the public too early, infecting others, damaging the economy, and extending the pandemic. 

After reading your email, it made me wonder if the SOA is aware of new OSHA rules and regulations that are in place as of yesterday (July 22, 2021). These rules apply to public sector medical facilities, like API, Alaska Pioneer Homes, and other facilities that provide health care services like correctional institutions.  The new rules provide workers many things in these facilities including COVID leave.  I hope the SOA will comply with these new OSHA rules. 

If you or other SOA departments have questions about the new OSHA rules, I am happy to set up an informational meeting with safety experts at our International Union, AFSCME.  

Thanks for your consideration.


Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52     

July 22, 2021

Learn about the new OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and how it impacts health care professionals: COVID-19 Protections for Certain Health Care Workers (June 16, 2021)

March 10, 2021

Alaska became the first state in the nation to open vaccine eligibility to all people living and working in Alaska that are age 16 and over. Visit covidvax.alaska.gov to search for providers and make an appointment.

February 11, 2021

A memo issued on February 11 outlined that state employees will be able to utilize administrative leave with a supervisor's approval if needed to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

See the memo below:

Good afternoon,

As you are aware, additional tiers of residents can begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, and this expanded eligibility criteria will now include many state employees. The Governor encourages all employees to do their own research and make their own decision about receiving the vaccine. Therefore, and as a result of the current global pandemic, Commissioner Crum and the Chief of Staff have determined that state employees will be allowed to receive the vaccine during work hours if there are no other times or options available.  Employees must receive supervisory approval and staffing must not be reduced as a result.  This leave is only during the unprecedented initial rollout and will no longer be available after May 31, 2021.  This benefit is only to receive the COVID vaccine and only if the employee cannot schedule an appointment during non-work hours.  Hours should be treated as administrative leave and may not exceed two hours.  Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks- Kate

Kate Sheehan
Division of Personnel and Labor Relations

Visit covidvax.alaska.gov to see if you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

January 14, 2021

If you are a frontline worker with 'frequent exposure' to COVID-19 infected persons or patients, you are likely eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine! Taking the vaccine is not a requirement but encouraged for keeping yourself, your family, and your community safe.

Visit covidvax.alaska.gov to see if you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

December 2, 2020 

The House State Affairs Committee met on Tuesday, Dec 2 for a COVID-19 roundtable to listen to experts discuss important hazard controls and measures to protect workers. AFSCME Health & Safety expert Keith Wrightson urged legislators to "incorporate a series of hazard prevention controls in indoor workplaces to reduce the risk of exposure to SARS-Cov-2." Keith stressed to protect the health and safety of workers indoors, there should be an emphasis on:

  • workplace configuration
  • ventilation
  • enhanced cleaning practices
  • and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Wrightson also shared that the CDC recognizes three vehicles of transmission:

  • small droplets from speaking or coughing, which can end up in the eyes, mouth, or nose of people standing nearby
  • contact with contaminated surfaces
  • and transmission from aerosols from the inhalation of invisible infectious particles exhaled by an infected person.

Wrightson stressed that "without ventilation, aerosols remain suspended in the air and become increasingly dense the longer an infected person remains in an enclosed space. The risk of contagion is highest indoors but can be reduced by applying all available measures to combat infection from aerosolized respiratory droplets."

You can read Keith Wrightson's full testimony by clicking on this document link ⇒ Wrightson, K., COVID Workplace Safety, 12 02 2020 pdf
(329 KB)
You can view his presentation by clicking on this link ⇒ AFSCME COVID-19 Worker Safety presentation slides, by K Wrightson 12 02 2020

To view all of the meeting documents from other presenters at the legislative hearing, visit the Alaska Legislature website 
To listen to the full hearing, check the akleg website or visit Gavel Alaska (KTOO)

Here's a preview of some of the slides and information from the presentation:




October 29, 2020 

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 hosted a statewide virtual town hall to address rising cases of COVID-19 including outbreaks in numerous state facilities. AFSCME Health and Safety expert, Keith Wrightson participated in the event and shared a presentation (see below) on best practices for controlling and staying safe during this pandemic. Mr. Wrightson stressed the importance of establishing standards for addressing COVID-19 because evidence and history suggest it could be around for the next 15 months. 

Representative Zack Fields also participated in the presentation sharing the actions and efforts of the Legislature and stressing the importance of hearing from state employees about working conditions in order to advise policymakers on implementing protections. 

Read more about this event in our press release and feel free to take a look at Mr. Wrightson's slide deck.

Press Release ASEA COVID 19 Townhall

COVID-19 Oct 29, 2020 Townhall Presentation

hierarchy of controls

October 21, 2020

The House Health and Social Services Committee held a legislative hearing entitled: COVID-19 in Alaska - An update on local & state pandemic response. This was similar to the series of joint meetings about workplace safety with a broader focus on the pandemic and its impact on the state and particularly health care capacity in the state. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website under the House Health and Social Services Metting Details: October 20 COVID-19 Update

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Zulkosky's bulletin: Public health leaders predict challenging winter months as Alaska grapples with pandemic

ASEA's Executive Director, Jake Metcalfe, was invited to speak and shared concern over the Administration's continued absence at these meetings. Jake Metcalfe shared that after nearly 7 months of dealing with the pandemic, there is still inconsistent communication on the part of the State to it's employees which causes additional stress during an already stressful period. Jake Metcalfe called on the State to implement a crisis communications program for improving the delivery of critical information to state employees especially for those working in facilities where an outbreak has occurred. Mr. Metcalfe offered that ASEA can be a partner in that effort in response to numerous calls and emails from members that are confused and concerned about their health and safety. 

Earlier in the year, the State met with public employee unions regularly to listen to concerns and attempt to answer questions. Answers were rarely available in real-time at those meetings and would take a long time to receive if ever when timing was of the essence. Rather than becoming involved, Commissioner Tshibaka decided to terminate these meetings altogether after determining they were not productive. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 has tried to engage with the Department of Administration in Labor-Management meetings with partial success. Regularity is still lacking but it is ASEA's hope to improve communications with the State especially around information related to the pandemic, to make sure members have the facts and information that is useful to them.

October 15, 2020

 On October 15, in the afternoon, Executive Director Jake Metcalfe contacted labor relations personnel in the Department of Administration regarding the issues and concerns in the Atwood Building. Please stay tuned for additional updates as this situation continues to develop.

As we discussed a couple of days ago,  ASEA members on the third floor of the Atwood building have been concerned about the beg bug issue on their floor since late September 2020.  I explained to you that our members received inconsistent information early on and then learned early this week that in fact live bed bugs had been found in the same office on that floor.  Nancy got back to me on this and explained that fumigation would take place ASAP. I appreciated the prompt attention given to this issue.  

As you know, I contacted you yesterday because we heard from members on the 15th floor who had been instructed to evacuate the building. They were uncertain why, so  I asked you to find out.  Not long after my communication with you, I learned, and informed you, that members had been told that the Atwood HVAC system had been infested with bed bugs. At or near the same time, the media reported that there had been an outbreak of COVID cases among the Governor’s staff. 

Today, Toya and I have heard from additional members in the Atwood Building about the bed bug infestation and the COVID outbreak in the Governor’s office. Members are upset about the lack of, and inconsistent, information they have on the subjects. Some members were told not to return to work until Tuesday because the building was going to be fumigated. Members learned today that the building is open and business is going on as usual. 

In general, anyone paying attention knows that the COVID issue in Alaska is fast approaching out of control status. Rightfully so, our members and your employees are freaked out and concerned about infection. ASEA members near the Governor’s office share this anxiety.  Members there tells us they knew nothing about the infection in the Governor’s Atwood office until they learned about it from the media.  They still don’t have information know about exposure or potential exposure to the virus. Obviously, they are stressed out, anxious, and concerned about their health and the risk they face both about infection and infestation. The lack of information from management/leadership makes their stress and anxiety worse. ASEA’s ask, in this crisis, is for SOA leadership to do a better job of communicating with all employees on these issues. Our members, non-members, and all state employees deserve information and entitled to respect on these public health issues. 

I’m not aware of any management/leadership communication with ASEA leadership, ASEA members, other bargaining units or non-union employees on these issues. If that happened, please share that communication with ASEA. If not, I can’t stress how important it is from a public health and safety perspective that SOA leadership communicate with its bargaining unit leadership on these issues. Alaska is in the middle of a health crisis unlike any we have ever known. Employees need to know they are safe in the workplace and need to have accurate information about what is going on in the workplace immediately. That information needs to be communicated accurately, quickly, regularly and consistently with all employees. 

We know and understand that everyone is busy dealing with multiple health and personnel issues. We know that issues can pop up fast and furious. However, in a crisis, there needs to be a crisis communication system. That system must involve ASEA and other bargaining unit representatives, so we can help communications and educate our members on what is going on. This system should have been set up long ago, but it is still not too late. 

One fact is certain, this crisis will get worse before it gets better. ASEA is willing to help improve communications and is available to meet with your representatives. My guess is the other bargaining units are willing as well. 

We must do a better job of informing each other and our members about safety issues, how they are being dealt with, and that all safety precautions are being taken to keep us all safe. This information relieves employee stress and makes for a more productive workforce.  When these issues happen, we should meet immediately and discuss how to deal with the issue and how to communicate on these issues with members.    

Please let me know if you are interested in our offer to help you be more transparent. We look forward to discussing this and providing any help to make this happen.

Thank you for all you do and your prompt attention to this matter.


Jake  Metcalfe
Executive Director


September 9, 2020

The House State Affairs and House Health and Social Services Committees held its fifth joint session about workplace safety for state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website: COVID-19 in Alaska on Local and State Pandemic Response

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Field's press release: Experts tell lawmakers public health measures are essential to Alaska's economic recovery


July 29, 2020

The House State Affairs and House Health and Social Services Committees held its fourth joint session about workplace safety for state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website: COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Reducing Virus Transmission on the Job

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Field's press release: Workplace safety experts caution that Alaska workers need better protections against COVID-19

"Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association, testified that many state workers are being required to work from the office. Even some who are able to work effectively from home, and workers who are personally at a high risk of serious complications from COVID-19 or care for someone who is, are being forced to choose between their health and their job."


July 27, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 put together a summary of Protections for Public Employees During the Pandemic. Click on the link to view: https://www.afscmelocal52.org/asea-files/ASEA_COVID_Protections_JUL2020.pdf


July 15, 2020

The House State Affairs and House Health and Social Services Committees held its third joint session about workplace safety for state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website: COVID Safety at High-Risk Facilities

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Field's press release: Workers tell lawmakers best practices for COVID-19 not being followed at high-risk facilities

From the hearing, ASEA's own Barry Yabyabin testified informing committee members that many employees working at the McLaughlin Youth Center had to purchase their own sanitizer and soap due to the facility being completely out of supplies for weeks. Rep Zack Fields acknowledged that "State employees are literally being forced to choose between their health and their jobs," noting that "this is completely unacceptable," and that "Alaskan workers deserve better."


July 8, 2020

The House State Affairs and House Health and Social Services Committees held its second joint session about workplace safety for state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website: Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Field's press release: Experts urge Dunleavy Administration to issue workplace safety standards


May 27, 2020

On May 27, the Alaska House State Affairs and House Health and Social Services Committees held its first joint session about workplace safety for state employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen or watch the hearing on the Alaska Legislature website: Impacts of Phase III & Safety for Working Alaskans

You can read more about the hearing from Chair Field's press release: Experts call for additional COVID protections during economic re-opening


April 21, 2020

ASEA Asks the Alaska Congressional Delegation to Fund the Frontlines!—ASEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe wrote a letter to Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Representative Young asking them to support public employees on the front lines and to expand aid to states so Alaskans working on the frontlines have access to training, PPEs, and other support they need to keep themselves, and the Alaskans they serve, safe. 

pdf Letter ASEA Jake Metcalfe Letter Fund Frontlines Sen. Murkowski (Apr, 21, 2020) (321 KB)

pdf Letter ASEA Jake Metcalfe Letter Fund Frontlines Sen. Sullivan (Apr, 21, 2020) (321 KB)

pdf Letter ASEA Jake Metcalfe Fund Frontlines Rep. Young (Apr. 21, 2020) (321 KB)

If you are interested in adding your name, you can do so by clicking on this link: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-congress-fund-the-front-lines-now/


April 20, 2020

Overtime for Public Health Nurses – ASEA Fought and Won!—Public employees are working extra hard right now during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Public Health Nurses are among those employees and were previously ineligible to receive overtime. Because of their extraordinary workload, ASEA and the state agreed to enter into a letter of agreement (LOA) that will allow specified FLSA overtime exempt employees to receive time and a half for work that is performed in addition to 40 hours of work per week. This agreement is valid as long as the emergency declaration by the Governor is in place.  

In this LOA, the state originally proposed to offer overtime in addition to 42 hours of work per week. ASEA negotiated the state to drop the ‘overtime trigger’ down to 40 hours and would have preferred the overtime to begin at 37.5 hours, but the state would not agree to that.

Overall, this is a much improved situation for Public Health Nurses that previously received no overtime for work that occurred beyond 40 hours per week. ASEA appreciates the state’s cooperation in this effort and will continue to work with the state to make sure all public employees have what they need to stay safe and healthy during this time.

pdf ASEA-SOA LOA DHSS Overtime Eligibility for COVID-19 Response (Apr. 20, 2020) (99 KB)


April 18, 2020

Weekly Digest about PPEs—ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 shared important notes about PPEs to all members in the April 18, 2020 Weekly Digest. Adding to that message, employees should be aware of CDC recommendations for proper use of PPEs.

Resources for employees working in healthcare facilities:

Resources for Employees who are working in facilities with increased risk of exposure (24-hour facilities, etc.):

Notes on cloth masks (these should not be used for employees in healthcare settings – these will help keep those around you safe but will not protect you from contracting the novel coronavirus and work best when others around you are also wearing cloth masks):

  1. Do not touch your face mask (any face mask) while wearing it
  2. Avoid taking it on and off frequently
  3. When removing, carefully remove it from behind your ears or head (do not touch the mask itself) 
  4. Do not re-use unless proper sanitizing has occurred (for cloth masks):
    • Let sit in a paper or breathable container for a period of 72 hours (overnight is not sufficient)
    • For cloth masks - sanitize by washing in a washing machine on the hottest setting
    • For cloth masks - sanitize by ironing with a hot iron (using care not to burn your mask)
  5. For N95 respirators

If you have questions or concerns about available PPE, safe working conditions, or other issues, contact your steward or business agent or ASEA Headquarters.


April 17, 2020

The Anchorage Chapter established a Solidarity Assistance Program (SAP) to assist Anchorage members who need additional support during this time. https://www.afscmelocal52.org/solidarity-assistance-program


April 15, 2020

Health and Safety Survey for SOA GGU through April 30, 2020—ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 sent an email message to all SOA GGU members inviting participation in a health and safety assessment. The survey is available is open until April 30. If you did not get a link for the survey, or are having difficulty opening or submitting it, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In less than 24 hours, more than 1,000 members responded to the survey making it one of the highest response rates to an ASEA survey to date. Thank you to all that responded already.


April 15, 2020

ASEA Responds to Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 at Lemon Creek Correctional—Two more confirmed cases were detected at the Lemon Creek Correctional Facility in Juneau. Here is a link to the most recent article: https://www.ktva.com/story/42012788/watch-state-outlines-plan-to-combat-coronavirus-in-correctional-facilities-after-staff-test-positive-for-covid-19. DOC issued the following press release: https://doc.alaska.gov/commish/pressreleases/DOC%20Press%20Release%20-%20Additional%20Positive%20Cases%20Confirmed%20at%20LCCC.pdf

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 sent an email to all of the GGU members that work at Lemon Creek sharing actions ASEA is taking to look out for their health and safety. Some resources that were included in the letter included:

ASEA continues to look into the health and safety for all state employees and will continue to provide updates as they arise. 


April 13, 2020

ASEA Requests to Bargain around Hazard Pay and PPE for State employees amid the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak—ASEA renewed its request to bargain over hazard pay and PPEs after the state denied ASEA's previous request (see below). This request was also renewed in response to the news of more state workers and union members testing positive for COVID-19 in the state’s 24-hour facilities. The state denied this request again, and ASEA continues to look at paths forward to protect members who deliver essential public services while risking infection.

In the first letter (summarized), Jake Metcalfe wrote:

ASEA Local 52 requests that the SOA enter into negotiations over PPEs and hazard pay for essential state employees. Health and safety is a mandatory subject of bargaining. The Governor’s mandates have changed safety practices regarding PPE’s and with personal sanitizing rules. Moreover, with the news of staff that tested positive for COVID-19 at Lemon Creek and MYC- employees are now facing unprecedented hazards and dangers in doing their jobs and the SOA is not able to keep staff healthy and safe in 24-hour institutions. Please let us know promptly when you can meet and negotiate over health, safety and hazard pay. 

In a summarized response, the state replied:

You have requested a LOA for hazard pay for certain state employees. We have reviewed the request and won’t be approving at this time. While I truly appreciate all the hard work of your members and recognize we are in unchartered territory, I don’t believe hazard pay is appropriate.  

We have taken safety precautions in our state offices and worksites. Many offices have unique challenges and we think we have adapted our safety precautions to those unique settings.  As always, if you have concerns with a certain location, please bring that to my attention and I will follow up.  

​State offices are dissimilar from other ​work environment​s such as grocery store​s, and we have been able to successfully adhere to all mandates and implement protective measures, such as spacing and disinfection requirements. We continue to monitor the situation and will adhere to all mandates. 

Finally, potential exposure to COVID-19 (which is widespread in community transmission) is dissimilar to the types hazards for which other employees are receiving hazard pay or any other definition of hazard pay as outlined in the CBA language nor does it meet the definition of “dangerous conditions” that would warrant a premium pay. Employees who continue to work in an office or in the community responding to COVID-19 are either working in safe buildings or acting within the scope of their customary duties. This situation does not fall within the definition of hazard pay and expansion of the definition is not warranted. I have conferred with other states and communities; this decision is in line with what other government employers are doing. 

You can watch a video update about PPE and Hazard Pay here.


April 8, 2020

ASEA and the State of Alaska entered into a Letter of Agreement under Article 26.13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for an emergency open enrollment period for GGU members to join the voluntary Emergency Leave Bank (ELB) program.


April 7, 2020

ASEA Requests SOA Develop a Consistent Protocol for When a Workplace has a Positive Test Result for COVID-19—ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 asked the state to develop a protocol for notifying ASEA and state employees when a worksite has a positive test result for COVID-19 (while protecting identifying information). The request referenced a practice that has been used for notifying employees of an officer-involved shooting. In those instances, management would notify the workplace steward of the event and the steward would notify the union. The union could then contact management for updates and to have the latest, accurate information of the event – allowing the union to communicate and provide accurate information to the membership at that work location.

A strong protocol that outlines good communication yields fewer questions to management and reduces rumors and misinformation. A process such as this also allows the union to better answer members' questions. What officer-involved shootings and COVID-19 have in common is workplace safety issues. Workplace safety is also the number one concern of management and unions. To have a safe workplace, management and the union should work together, communicate any issues to each other, make sure employees are safe, and that the rights and obligations under the contract are being met. A protocol is a way management and the union can address concerns immediately. In short, it helps both management and the union do their jobs better.  


April 6, 2020

ASEA Responds to Confirmed Case of COVID-19 at MYC—ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 sent an email to all SOA GGU members at MYC (McLaughlin Youth Center) after learning about a confirmed case of COVID-19 at that worksite: https://www.alaskapublic.org/2020/04/05/another-coronavirus-death-reported-in-alaska-bringing-total-to-six/. The email message shared that DJJ would be implementing all recommended and necessary protective measures for staff and residents.


April 10, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 has prepared an FAQ for COVID-19 related questions.


March 26, 2020

ASEA Responds to the Confirmed Case of COVID-19 at a Juneau Work Site—After ASEA learned of the first confirmed positive case in a state office (see this Juneau Empire article) – we reached out right away to check on how others in that work site were doing and to see if anyone needed anything and to make sure the State was acting quickly, and appropriately to ensure the safety of other employees. 


March 23, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 shared a letter and petition with more than 400 signatures to the Governor urging immediate action on behalf of state employees.

pdf ASEA Petition Seeking Immediate Action for SOA Employee Protections (Mar. 23, 2020) (820 KB)


March 23, 2020

ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 informed the Governor’s Administration about immediate legal action the union will take on behalf of the health and safety of all Alaskans if the Administration failed to act to address unsafe working conditions for employees.


March 21, 2020

State employees came together to share their stories and how the Governor's inaction threatens the health and safety of all Alaskans in a telephonic press conference on Saturday.


March 18, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe shared a video update with members on all we are doing to urge the Governor to take action ensuring public employees have all they need to keep themselves, their families, and the public, safe during this time. We are asking all public employees to help us pressure the governor to act now by calling his office: (907) 465-3500 and contacting your legislators. Please click on the button below to watch the video.


March 18, 2020

Representatives Zack Fields and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins sent a letter to Dept. of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka requesting the Administration act swiftly to ensure that state employees are protected during this time. The letter made the same four requests that ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 has been urging of this Administration and is in line with the recommendations by the Governor himself, Chief Medical Officer for Alaska, and CDC and are summarized below:

  1. Enforce a policy of telework for those who can
  2. Provide all employees who must interact with the public with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe
  3. Reassure those who can't telework, yet must be home for a myriad of COVID-19 related reasons, will receive paid administrative leave
  4. Ensure direct public contact by employees is minimized and social distancing can be practiced at the workplace

pdf Letter from State Reps Fields & Kreiss-Tomkins to DOA Commissioner Tshibaka (Mar. 18, 2020) (239 KB)


March 18, 2020

An AFSCME Fact sheet on pre-screen questions for public employees continuing to interact with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic was sent to the Dept. of Health & Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum and Dept. of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka urging that they ensure state employees utilize such procedures to keep themselves safe during this pandemic. The sheet was also sent to all public employees that continue to work with the public at the time as of March 17, 2020.


March 16, 2020

An AFSCME Fact sheet on using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for public employees working in a COVID-19 environment was sent to all healthcare workers encouraging them to follow these best practices and to inform ASEA if they do not have access to proper PPE.


March 15, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy seeking immediate action from the state to slow COVID-19 infections and extend medical resources. The urgent request is posted as a news item below.


March 9, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe sent a letter to Commissioner Tshibaka of Administration and Commissioner Ledbetter of Labor & Workforce Development to request consideration of the financial impacts facing public employees in case of work interruptions related to COVID-19. In addition, Metcalfe sought the Administration's support for activating federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance that would provide economic assistance to employees statewide whose income is affected by the coronavirus public health emergency. Commissioner Tshibaka replied the same day with appreciation for the union's position and encouraged continued communication with the Administration.

Commissioners Tshibaka and Ledbetter:

When the time comes that the SOA needs to declare an emergency because of COVID-19, and by all accounts that will be soon, I urge the Dunleavy Administration to follow Rhode Island’s lead as COVID-19 infections threaten to disrupt state government (see below). Alaska’s public employees deserve to know that emergency measures exist and are being contemplated to ensure best workplace outcomes as well as contingencies for prolonged work interruptions or quarantine, especially when they will result in lost earnings with little or no financial assistance.

Your employees, like workers in Rhode Island, deserve the confidence and security of financial assistance when weighing the decision to avoid infecting others, to leave work to take care of a family member or to respond to an office closure—all at no fault of their own.

A step further, I ask you both to request that Governor Dunleavy, like Governor Raimondo, seek activation of the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program from President Trump when a state emergency is declared. This additional assistance will aid all working Alaskans who will need financial support if they are forced to choose between work, their health, or to be home with family.  

Thank you for your prompt attention to the real life burdens and difficult choices facing dedicated Alaskan workers as a consequence of COVID-19 infection in the home or at the workplace. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 is happy to meet and discuss with you all avenues of assistance for employees in an emergency situation. It is essential for our economy and wellbeing that Alaska’s working people continue to be paid and have help if they are prevented from working and providing public services at no fault of their own.  

Please let us all know, as soon as possible, if you are planning similar measures to Rhode Island when an emergency declaration takes place.  We look forward to learning more about your plan for federal assistance, the kind of federal requests you have planned and the commitment of this Administration to help Alaska’s working families manage challenges and lower anxiety in the days ahead. 

In Solidarity,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director


March 6, 2020

Executive Director Jake Metcalfe reached out to State Personnel & Labor Relations Director Kate Sheehan on March 6, 2020, regarding the State’s plan for keeping public employees safe from COVID-19 infection (text below). The state has since updated its FAQ sheet for coronavirus best practices and personnel policies. Communication between the state and public employee unions is ongoing to clarify procedures for the safety of state workers and their families. If you haven’t already viewed that FAQ sheet, please use this link: http://doa.alaska.gov/dop/directorsOffice/covid19/ Your comments and questions are invited so all concerns can be addressed.

Hi Kate:

Understandably many ASEA members are concerned about COVID-19, especially as the worksite becomes a plausible place for infection from fellow employees and members of the public. Since we met with Nancy, I’ve heard from members who are unsatisfied with the information in the coronavirus FAQs posted by DOA. As I told Nancy, many persistent questions from our members could have been answered if the State had engaged in simple communications with unions which represent nearly 20,000 employees and their families. A willingness to communicate would save our members—your employees—a lot of stress, anxiety and frustration. I am optimistic that there’s still time to share useful, factual and constructive information about COVID-19 with employees and I hope the Administration will join the public employee unions as a partner in announcing best practices and appropriate policies to address the specific concerns of our members.

Here are member questions that we’d like added to the FAQ;

    1. Are or will N-95 respirators be available to first responders and nurses who deal with possible and confirmed COVID-19 infections?
    2. Is the state purchasing other protective gear and equipment, including but not limited to goggles, gloves and face masks for employees who deal with sick people and the general public? If so, will that safety equipment be free of cost to the employee?
    3. If an employee is suspected of having the virus, is direct testing available to determine if the employee is positive or negative?
    4. Does or will every state office have hand sanitizer (with 60%+ alcohol base) available for employees.
    5. If a state office is quarantined, will employees have to take personal leave?
    6. In the case a state office is closed for quarantine, will employees be able to work from home?
    7. Will health care premiums continue to be paid if an employee runs out of personal leave?
    8. Will the state increase staff if needed to deal with COVID-19?
    9. Will employees be disciplined if they refuse personal contact with people they suspect are sick?

In addition, questions have come up as a result of the COVID-19 FAQ distributed by DOA Commissioner Tshibaka. Members are concerned that supervisors will have authority to require employees who display COVID-19 symptoms to leave the workplace. If this occurs, it’s reasonable to assume there will need to an approval process to return to work. Approval could take weeks. Employees will be on leave, unless the supervisor approves telecommuting.

    1. Do supervisors have the expertise to make such judgements?
    2. Is there an appeal process in place where an employee can challenge a supervisor’s decision?
    3. Until a dispute is resolved, will an employee be required to use personal leave? If the appeal is decided in the employee’s favor, will leave be returned?

We expect to get many more questions from our members, especially related to the FAQs posted by DOA. For the sake of all union and non-union employees, ASEA requests DOA meet with all the public employee union representatives as soon as possible to addresses the above and any new questions. Please let us know when that will happen. We look forward to your prompt response.


Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director


March 5, 2020

AFSCME has published COVID-19 resources here: https://www.afscme.org/covid-19


March 4, 2020

The Department of Administration has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for state employees here: http://doa.alaska.gov/dop/directorsOffice/covid19/


March 3, 2020

ASEA and labor unions representing more than 12,000 public employees across Alaska seek the Governor's support for protecting frontline workers from COVID-19 infection. The press release is posted as a news item below.


February 28, 2020



There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus, by taking everyday preventive actions as with the flu and other respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Get a flu vaccine.

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.



COVID-19 is believed to spread between people who are in close (within 6 feet) contact with one another, mainly by respiratory transmission – via droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It is possible that spread can occur from surfaces infected with the virus, but this is not believed to be the main way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they show the greatest symptoms, although some spread might be possible before people show symptoms.



The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States. The disease is of concern because it is a novel virus – a new strain of virus infecting people – and it has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and exhibits sustained person-to-person spread, which are two of the three criteria of a pandemic. As the virus exhibits more cases of community spread, or cases for which the source of infection is unknown, COVID-19 will meet all three characteristics.

Although the general public health risk from COVID-19 is high, individual risk currently varies, depending on exposure. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk is considered low. However, certain people will have an increased risk of infection, for example, health care workers caring for patients with the disease and other close contacts of them. And if the virus causes a pandemic, as health experts expect is likely, that will change the risk assessment for individuals.



COVID-19 symptoms have occurred between two and 14 days of infection and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The severity of symptoms ranges widely, from mild – milder than the flu – to severe illness, and even death. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems might be at greater risk for severe illness from this virus. Some infected individuals exhibit no symptoms.