MINNEAPOLIS – After a survey of members found that almost half of respondents had no gloves, masks or hand sanitizer despite working in buildings across the Twin Cities, SEIU Local 26 has purchased and will begin distributing N95 masks, gloves and hand sanitizers for members who are on the front lines of COVID-19.
The Union represents over 8,000 janitors, security officers, airport workers, window washers and more. SEIU Local 26 purchased the personal protective equipment (PPE) when it became clear that the push to demand employers provide these basic protections was happening in too many places. While they clean and protect buildings housing some of the richest corporations in the world, the members of SEIU Local 26 work for dozens of different sub-contractors, many of whom are multinational corporations.
“Our members are out there on the front lines keeping Minnesota buildings safe and clean. Yet many of them – mostly people of color and women – continue to show up to do their job but are not given the basic protective gear that every person should have to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Iris Altamirano, President of SEIU Local 26.
The Union is giving away the PPE from 12 to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Friday night the hours will be extended and the Union will hold a virtual candlelight vigil at 8:30pm at the office in honor of the frontline workers who we have lost and those who continue to do their work in spite of the challenging situation.
The Union announced late in April the first COVID-19 death of a member, Armando Solis, a father and union leader who died of COVID-19. Since that time, the Union has heard from dozens of members who have reported either contracting or being exposed to COVID-19 and many others who work every day fearful that they will catch this virus at work and possibly bring it home to their families.
“This is a scary time for all of us. Everyone wants to be able to go home safely to our families after work, but I’ve heard from many members of our union who don’t have the masks or gloves they need to be safe at work,” said Elia Starkweather, a janitor and Vice President of the Union. “Many people are so scared. We can’t do our work from home, so we have to go out even when many people are staying home to keep their families healthy. I’m proud our Union is stepping up this way and helping to make sure workers on the front lines are able to have basic protections to keep themselves safe.”