COVID-19 Update – March 23, 2020

March 23rd, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented hardship and trauma for NUHW members and healthcare workers across the country. Many NUHW members are confronting a desperate shortage of protective equipment; others are losing shifts as elective procedures are cancelled, while many others are struggling to do their jobs while caring for children who are home from school.

Our top priority is to protect the safety of all NUHW members so all of you are able to care for your patients and your families. We can only accomplish this by holding employers accountable. To that end we have initiated working groups with management at several hospitals to constructively address and solve problems identified by our members. While we have not solved every issue as quickly as we’d like, these working groups have been productive, and we are currently seeking to expand them to additional hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other facilities.

One issue that we are continuing to stress with employers is the need to make COVID-19 testing available for all healthcare workers as soon as there are enough available testing kids to make that practical.

The immediate need to test all healthcare workers is even more pronounced because of the appalling lack of available personal protective equipment. It’s unconscionable that healthcare workers across the country are being asked to make their own masks, reuse masks, or work without any masks whatsoever.

We are pushing hard to make sure that all NUHW members have immediate access to appropriate protective equipment. We have also echoed the demands of healthcare workers and public health experts advocating for a dramatic increase in the production and availability of ventilator masks, goggles, gowns, and other protective equipment. When supplies finally increase, we will continue calling on employers to be fully transparent about the availability of protective equipment and how it is allocated.

Unfortunately, many NUHW members have lost shifts because of the COVID-19 pandemic or have had to cut back on work in order to be with their children. One of our employers, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, has agreed to provide NUHW members with 128 hours of additional paid-time off. We’re asking other employers to follow the lead of Children’s Hospital, but in the meantime we want to make sure everyone is aware of unemployment, paid family leaves, and other programs that can be accessed through the state of California. Click here to access more information about these programs and links to sign up for them.

Our great strength as a union is that we stand together — particularly in times of crisis. At a juncture when Asian-Americans have endured a sudden, sharp increase in hate crimes, and anti-Chinese comments have been made to COVID-19-related social media posts by at least one of our employers, it’s critical that we not succumb to the forces of division and hatred.

We’re all in this together, and we are all united in our shared humanity.

If you have any concerns that your employer is failing to protect your safety, provide sufficient time for you to care for your children or maintain your shifts please immediately report your concerns to your steward or organizer — or contact NUHW directly at (510) 834-2009 or COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Healthcare Workers