New York City EMS workers like Laura Hartnett – a member of AFSCME Local 2507 (District Council 37) – has been on the front lines in the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, risking her life and her health every day for the people she serves.
COVID-19 is running rampant through Western State Hospital in Washington state, but psychiatric social worker Mike Yestramski – president of AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE) – still shows up every day to care for his clients and fight for the resources he and his co-workers need to take care of their patients properly.
Brian Miller, an Ohio corrections officer and president of Chapter 5190 (OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11), is fighting off a COVID-19 infection – like 90% of his co-workers. When he’s well, he’ll be right back at his post, despite the risks of getting re-infected in the prison, a coronavirus hotspot.
AFSCME Florida member Shirley Thomas, a school custodian for 19 years, was furloughed recently and doesn’t know when – or if – she’ll return to work. She’s ready to go back in an instant to sanitize the school so the students can be safe, ready to take care of the kids like they were her own.
These are the names and stories of AFSCME front-line heroes, who have never been stronger. They are putting their lives on the line for their communities, regardless of the danger to themselves and their loved ones. Now these heroes face another threat – the threat of layoffs because state and local governments may not have the money to retain their services. The coronavirus has blown a pandemic-sized hole in state and local budgets.
That’s why AFSCME members are working hard to make sure Congress funds the front lines. We want Congress to spend whatever it takes help state and local governments fill the holes in their budgets and rebuild public services.
As President Lee Saunders said, “State and local aid is not an abstraction. It means the schools are strong. It means the trash gets picked up. It means the streets and roads get fixed. It means clean water comes out of the tap. It means, when you call 911, the ambulance shows up in time. We cannot beat this pandemic and reopen our economy if these front-line workers are thanked with pink slips.”
Public service workers are making a life-and-death difference for all Americans. If states and localities don’t get the federal help they need to continue providing public services, all Americans will suffer. We can’t let that happen. That’s why we are demanding that Congress fund the front lines.