COVID Update/CWA Positions

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Communications Workers of America Local 1168, AFL-CIO

DATE:            May 5, 2020

TO:                  All CWA Local 1168 Members

FROM:            Executive Board and Special Directors of CWA Local 1168

RE:                  COVID-19 Update/CWA Positions

CWA Local 1168’s Position on Safety during the COVID-19 Crisis

Employers have a legal, moral and ethical obligation and responsibility to protect the frontline healthcare workers who serve our communities. To that end we must continually advocate for the highest standards, best practice, best known protection and safest work place conditions.  This in spite of the current status and contingency plans adopted due to lack of resources available at any given time. We must look forward to establishing a new normal that is always focused on keeping healthcare workers, patients and the community safe regardless of what strikes next.

Personal Protective Equipment

We believe you should treat each patient as though they may be Positive. Everyone should proceed taking proper care to protect yourself accordingly with PPE. As an example, Kaleida has committed to the Unions to provide N95s to all staff who request it. 

We understand that recently adopted guidelines by the CDC, State and Local Governments were in response to current lack of proper supplies and equipment (including low stockpiles and availability of N-95 masks) in the US and globally. That said, we must continue to strive for the best. The Federal Government must enact the Defense Production Act to the fullest in order to establish (reestablish) manufacturing in this country immediately in order to meet the needed PPE and Health Care equipment quickly for us, our families and the patients we serve.

We can never be in this position of vulnerability again. The vision of sourcing and continued stockpiling for now and the next generations of healthcare workers is a must.

COVID-19: Tracking, Tracing and Notifications

The tracking of COVID + Patients in all Health Care institutions must be a priority. Healthcare workers are entitled to know quickly when we have been exposed to patients or co-workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Concern over the incidence of false negatives, testing errors and patients that are admitted without suspicion for COVID-19 prove to be problematic as recent events requiring re-testing has shown to result in positives  It’s in the best interest of all of our members to be apprised that they have had direct or indirect contact with COVID + patients, coworkers, physicians etc.

We have firsthand accounts from our front line workers of patients who have tested negative on more than one occasion with subsequent testing resulting in a positive result. We also know that our members have been testing positive for COVID-19 in COVID and non-COVID departments.

We stand strongly with our members in demanding from all employers, the development of systems to track COVID 19 + patients.  This would include tracing movement of the patients and employees (etc.) within the facilities regardless of reasons (admissions, ER, OR diagnostic testing, procedures, etc.). We would then want them to provide notifications to employees/ members of the dates times and instances of areas that had exposure to those patients. This would include any area the patient had occupied prior to testing positive within the facilities.

Current protocols call for alerting employees of possible exposure to Tuberculosis.  This then necessitates appropriate medical assessment and follow up.  We propose the same for COVID-19 exposure. 

Management at all employers must implement a system of tracking, tracing and notification for COVID + employees, physicians, students, vendors etc.  Members must be notified of exposures to infected employees in each particular unit or department including alerts to new coworker positive tests as they arise.

Healthcare workers on the frontline need to be able to quickly identify areas that need attention and quick intervention for our own wellbeing and that of our families.

We, as members of the Union want to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our coworkers. At Kaleida Health System, management was initially sharing the numbers of COVID positive members with the Union, but have stopped due to concerns about those numbers becoming public along with presumption of negative impact to their business.

Enclosed is a link seeking information. We want to hear from you about your exposures and/or your own experience with having COVID-19, so we can better assist in advocating for protection of all our Union brothers and sisters.

While we hold employers accountable for maintaining standards, we must also strive to maintain high standards in our own practice to keep each other safe. 

Stay Strong, Safe and Well!




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