By TIM ROWDEN
SLU Hospital cafeteria workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Missouri rallied in front of the hospital at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Vista Avenue July 2 demanding hazard pay and better protection from the coronavirus after three hospital cafeteria workers tested positive for COVID-19.
The workers are employees of Sodexo, which is contracted to provide food services at the hospital. They say Sodexo has refused to provide them with testing, hazard pay or appropriate PPE, despite the confirmed cases.
“I cook for the patients,” said cook Terry Norman. “We all work in the kitchen. We don’t get anything.”
Union Representative Paula Jones said workers are fearful of catching the coronavirus but have been told they will need to get testing on their own, at their own expense.
Jones said workers were told to wear cloth masks while working, but the heat in the kitchen makes that difficult. She said workers were then told they could get surgical masks, but would have to wear the same mask for three days before they could get another one.
“That mask, after a day, is contaminated,” Jones said. “They should be able to get a mask every day. That is the proper PPE for them.”
SEIU Healthcare is demanding that SLUH and SSM use the $100 billion Provider Relief Fund included in the CARES Act to pay frontline healthcare workers time-and-a-half hazard pay for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
“SLUH and SSM are once again putting their own profits ahead of the well-being of workers and the vulnerable people they serve,” said Lenny Jones, director of SEIU Healthcare Missouri.
“Their refusal to provide hazard pay or adequate protection to frontline workers now poses an imminent threat to the health and well-being of SLUH staff, patients, and their families. Lives are at stake. Hospital administrators who have received millions in federal aid must act now to provide hazard pay and adequate protection against this deadly virus.”