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Please stay tuned to this page for union updates on COVID-19 (the coronavirus).

 

April 21, 2020

April 20, 2020

April 18, 2020

April 17, 2020

April 15, 2020

April 15, 2020

April 13, 2020

April 8, 2020

April 7, 2020

April 6, 2020

April 10, 2020

March 26, 2020

March 23, 2020

March 23, 2020

March 21, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020

March 16, 2020

March 15, 2020

March 9, 2020

March 6, 2020

March 5, 2020

March 4, 2020

March 3, 2020

February 28, 2020

 

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 eveyone stay informed and follow good hygiene practices.

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


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 to 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 work site 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 work site: 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 Adminstration 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
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52

 

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 challenged 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.

Sincerely,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52

 

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

 

Prevention

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.

 

Spread

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.

 

Risk

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.

 

Symptoms

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.