SEIU 1021

SEIU 1021 members show how hospital housekeepers are COVID-19 heroes, too


Alameda Health System workers are on the front lines of public health in a time of unprecedented crisis, and have been relentless in their efforts to hold AHS management accountable and force them to prioritize the health and safety.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, SEIU 1021 member Derrick Boutte shared how the work of every member of the hospital team was crucial to saving and protecting lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortage of personal protective equipment facing essential frontline workers during this pandemic has been well-documented. It is not just nurses and doctors who are forced to go without—housekeeping staff, laboratory workers, clerks, dietary workers, and more are also forced to work without adequate protection. This puts everyone at risk.

Derrick, in the article, talks about how this dynamic plays out at Highland Hospital, where he works tirelessly in Environmental Services to keep the hospital clean and sanitary.

The article poses an important question, “Now think about this: If there’s a shortage of personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses in America, what must it be like for housekeepers, food service workers and other hospital departments staffed predominantly by people of color, like at Highland?

“If not for us, doctors, nurses — every individual there — will not be protected,” Boutte said. “It’s just a challenge knowing you’re looked at as not being as important as you really are.”

Unfortunately, decades of tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy have gutted our public health budgets and underfunded our social safety net. Now, we are seeing the dire consequences that workers have predicted all along.

For months before this pandemic began, AHS workers had already been sounding the alarm over shortstaffing and inadequate resources. Hospitals like Highland, where Derrick works, predominantly serve lower-income and communities of color.

Now, the COVID-19 has highlighted just how dire circumstances really are.

“As minority workers from the community that we serve, we always feel like we’re expendable,” Boutte said. “You got one person trying to cover multiple areas, so the hospital is not even getting cleaned.”

Some departments at the hospital, like food and nutrition, have been told they don’t need masks.

Workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic are doing everything they can to keep patients and communities safe, but don’t have the protective supplies or tests they need. That’s why we’re calling for #PPENow.

Sign this petition calling on our Federal administration to #ProtectAllWorkers by guaranteeing adequate supplies and tests are available to ensure the safety of all healthcare workers and patients

Check out more of the great coverage of SEIU 1021 AHS members in the news recently:

SF Chronicle: Hospital housekeepers on coronavirus front lines are heroes, too (requires a subscription)

KTVU: Workers demand county take over Alameda Health System as coronavirus threat intensifies

Mercury News: Coronavirus: Alameda Health System agrees to pay sick nurses following protest

NBC Bay Area: Medical Gear Shortages “A Key Gap” in Virus Response

KALW: Bay Area Nurses Say Hospitals Underprepared For COVID-19 Crisis

The Guardian: California healthcare workers protest lack of supplies

Berkeleyside: Overcrowded in ‘normal’ times, Highland Hospital braces itself for COVID-19