By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City — The union representing Missouri state workers said in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson last week that his order last month forcing workers back to state offices was “dangerous” and demanded he make more accommodations for employees ordered to return to office in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thirty-two House Democrats also signed onto the letter.
Citing declining cases, Parson in May directed all state employees to return to in-person work after many spent most of the previous 14 months working remotely.
CWA Local 6355 represents about 6,000 workers in the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Office of Administration.
“There is still a pandemic raging across the state of Missouri. We are still averaging at least 500 cases a day and only 30 percent of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated,” Natashia Pickens, president of the Missouri State Workers Union (MSWU) Communications Workers of America Local 6355, said in the letter to Parson.
“Your plan to force state workers back into the office without priority vaccine status, knowledge of their health concerns or time to make childcare arrangements is not only unfair but it is dangerous,” Pickens wrote.
RECONSIDER OR MAKE ACCOMMODATIONS
The union is urging Parson, a Republican, to reconsider his mandate or consider the union’s demands, including:
- That Missouri state employees receive paid time off to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they have not yet received it.
- That the state work with the union on safety protocols including COVID-19 testing, mask usage, social distancing and air purification.
- That the state provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all state employees, including but not limited to masks, hand sanitizer and gloves.
- That no employee be disciplined or lose pay if forced to take time off due to COVID-19 infection.
- That the state create a process for workers who have family and childcare responsibilities to request a delayed return to work to give them time to make necessary arrangements.
“This is not just an issue of safety for Missouri’s state workers,” Pickens wrote. “How you choose, Mr. Governor, to proceed with this reopening has public health implications for everyone in the state of Missouri who depends on public services.
“We urge you and the state to make every possible accommodation to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of state workers and the people of Missouri as we enter this next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.”