|By Wayne Spence|
PEF focused on making your return to work safe and productive
With much of the state beginning to reopen, many of you have been asked to return to your workplaces. We know this may be causing anxiety for some of you who may be worried about such things as maintaining social distancing, mask wearing, childcare issues, and testing , to name a few. We have been working with the state on all of these issues and more, because advocating for your health and safety is our number one priority.
Last month, we participated in a teleconference with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, where we were able to lay out our concerns about returning to the workplace and provided her with the information we believed the state needed to re-open offices safely, and share with her the PEF “Return to Work Toolkit“, prepared by PEF health and safety staff, that is also being used by the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union in their guidance for back-to-work best practices.
Throughout this time period, we have been proactively speaking with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) and were gratified to see that many of our recommendations are included in GOER’s guidelines that were issued May 26th.
This “Interim Guidance” provides a framework for each agency to use to base their return-to-work plans on. Since that time, PEF staff has analyzed the 11-page document, looked for deficiencies and provided recommendations to GOER that we think are paramount for a safe return.
In the meantime, we have been meeting with your local union leaders to ensure they are meeting with agencies on a statewide level to review the overall return-to-workplace plans and to ensure they are kept up to date on information coming from the state, so that they can answer your questions.
In these trying times, I want to thank you for your dedication to your work. It is because of you that New York state can move forward. We are doing everything we can to protect your jobs and to protect you at your jobs. We know that getting back to some sort of “normal” means ensuring health and safety in and for the workplace.
Finally, I would like to address the protests that are taking place across our country. The tragic death of George Floyd has awakened not only the United States, but the whole world, to another pandemic – racism. Black people, brown people, white people of all ages from coast to coast and throughout Europe have taken to the streets in mostly peaceful demonstrations with a goal of effecting change and making the world a better place.
This is a good time to remember that throughout history, peaceful protests against unequal civil rights have led to important systemic change:
• The Boston Tea Party, which was a precursor to the American Revolution;
• Protests after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire killed 146 young immigrant workers led New York state to reform laws governing working conditions;
• Suffragette protests resulted in an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote;
• The March on Washington, where Martin Luther King delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech before 200,000 peaceful demonstrators led to civil rights legislation; and
•George Floyd protests are calling for policy change to ensure everyone is equally protected under the law.
We believe these peaceful protestors demonstrating for constitutional rights must not be confused with the rioters and looters that have used the George Floyd tragedy to wreak havoc, cause more pain and blur the message and memory of Mister Floyd. Just as the majority of protests have been peaceful, we know the majority of law enforcement officers are trying hard to do their jobs to protect the communities they serve, and they, along with the protestors, just want a better world for us all.
Thank you for all you do!
Membership cards are ALWAYS available online at http://www.pef.org/join-pef, or you can request one through your steward, council leader or regional coordinator.
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