ASEA Seeks Immediate Action on Workplace Safety

The letter below was transmitted ot the Dunleavy Administration on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Despite the urgency for establishing practices and policies to avoid unnecessary COVID-19 infection with consideration of the wellbeing of public employees, ASEA has not received a response. The counter below marks the hours that the Governor has waited to address this extraordinary public health concern.

Dear Governor Dunleavy:

I appreciate the steps your Administration has taken to protect Alaskans from the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 infections. Based on developments over the weekend, the time has arrived to extend those protections—for the benefit of employees and the public alike—by preparing to close state offices in order to slow the rate of infections and stretch medical resources.

As you know, public employees across the state are anxious and worried about workplace infection and the adequacy of plans to mitigate the risks. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 represents nearly 8,000 public employees and many of our members are writing to me with concerns about their safety in the workplace. Here is an example:

“Employees have kids in school which is now closed to protect their kids. But their parents are having to take leave because the state won’t close or grant exceptions for small children’s parents. Even though I don’t have kids, my office has single parents who I care about.

On top of it, as someone who is in the high risk category for infection, I’m nervous that the infection will spread through my coworkers that can’t or won’t stay home. What’s the plan? It’s not like I can stay home because of the leave policy at my work. Even though they’ve relaxed it, it’s nerve wracking to have to make decisions like that.”

ASEA requests that you take immediate measures to reduce infectious transmission and to relieve employee anxiety over workplace safety. I believe it is imperative that you implement the following actions as soon as possible:

  1. Announce a policy of minimizing direct contact between state employees and the public wherever possible in the interest of public safety.
  2. Notify non-essential state employees that official office closures resulting in employees being sent home will be handled with administrative leave.
  3. Make telework mandatory for all who can.
  4. Inform your Class 1 and other mandatory employees that all work will be compensated.
  5. Ensure that proper safety equipment, cleaning supplies and infection prevention training are available for employees whose work requires it.

We look forward to your prompt reply on these issues affecting Alaska’s hard-working public employees as we all take precautions for ourselves, our families, our co-workers, and our communities.

Thank you and stay safe.

In solidarity,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director