As coronavirus cases escalate again in New York, the essential worker concern who already lived the nightmare of the apparition from the first terrible outbreak last March. Already some guilds precede what the dreaded ‘second hello’.
This Wednesday, a group of industrial laundry workers who offer service to hospitals and nursing homes, a very essential workforce during the pandemic, demonstrated at the Lower manhattan to demand from their employers more guarantees and clear protection protocols, now that COVID-19 is back on track in the Big Apple and the tri-state area.
Albert Arroyo, director of the Union of Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Workers, affiliated with SEIU, indicated that they are urging the Unitex corporation with 11 large units of non-disposable material washing services from hospital centers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, clearer actions to protect more than 3,500 workers, In its great majority Hispanic women.
“One of our points of greatest concern are the drivers who collect sheets and medical clothing in hospitals, who do not have a precise protection guide against COVID-19, when they lift these generally contaminated materials and also when they deliver it for washing, ”explained Arroyo.
The union leader assures that they are in negotiations with the management of this company to “unify the security criteria” and analyze how to achieve more social distancing in spaces where they share a very closely groups of four and six employees.
“Our workforce has not stopped working and offering this vital service in times of pandemic, which has to do with the hygiene of hundreds of health centers. Now that everything indicates that the infection will continue to rebound, it is time for more efforts to be made. It is an essential workforce “Arroyo exclaimed.
It’s not a whim
The dominican Reinaldo Ramírez, based in the Bronx, who has been working for 15 uninterrupted years in this corporation in New York, assures that as an employee he only requests that effective rules be available to guarantee his health.
“I work receiving dirty clothes and sheets. Even though yes we have gloves, gown and masks We are proposing that it is very important to also achieve social distancing within the areas. It’s finally for him welfare of all “Ramírez considered.
SEIU spokespersons explain that by definition the handling of these hospital materials represents a constant risk due to the series of pathogens that accumulate from the remains of blood, feces, vomit and human fluids, but that during the pandemic exposure to infections becomes exponentially greater.
“We now have three times more risks with COVID-19. I believe that this request should not be turned away from a labor force that has finally helped these corporations get rich. We have dead workers in this industry and several infected. I think it’s common sense. Not on a whim, ”said Albert Arroyo of SEIU.
Meanwhile, the Quisqueyana Libia Ramírez, who has worked for 34 years In different positions in this corporation of industrial laundries, he demands that for the sake of his colleagues he should offer more information about what is actually done for his protection.
“Our service is nothing less than for health centers. At the beginning of this crisis in March we were more scared, but now that there is the threat of a second wave I think it’s fair to have more social distancing rules within the companyLibya reasoned.
The newspaper asked the Unitex company its position in relation to these indications and until the closing of this edition had received no responses.
Another side of the drama: ‘laundries’ in NYC
The demand for more protection measures for essential employees, who have been doubly exposed to COVID-19 since the pandemic emerged in New York City, is a discussion that spreads across several unions. From nurses to cleaning workers.
But there is a workforce that looks more vulnerable: workers in 4,000 ‘laundries’ for coins, scattered almost in every corner of the Big Apple.
Rosanna Rodríguez from the Laundry Workers Center (LWC) describes that during the pandemic and now when outbreak scenarios are being handled in the city, this labor mass enveloped for decades in a model of labor exploitation, live moments of great tension.
“It is a very complex situation for these workers in their large proportion immigrant women of color. In this industry we have employers who do guarantee protective equipment, but there are very bad practices in general, especially con the concentrations of customers within these premises”, Says the activist.
Rodríguez emphasizes that there are reports, in recent weeks, of attacks on these workers by clients who react violently when required to wear masks to enter the establishments.
“There are also no clear deep cleaning protocols in these laundries, they are almost always the same workers who are supposed to be hired for washing and drying and they end up doing disinfection work in general ”, concludes the LWC spokeswoman.
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