As employees who work at state prisons, state hospitals and other critical state facilities, we understand that our members often have no choice but to stay on the front lines and care for others who may be afflicted with the virus. We’ve put together the following resources to help you stay informed and safe. Also, learn how you can join others in the fight to ensure AFSCME members have what they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
What do I do if I believe I was infected at work?
If you believe you may have been infected while performing your job, you should fill out a workers compensation claim immediately (within 24-hours) upon becoming ill and/or being tested positive for COVID-19. For guidance on completing a workers compensation claim, please visit your county’s workers’ compensation procedure website or contact your steward.
What counties have issued “shelter-in-place” orders?
As of March 23, the following counties have issued “shelter in place” orders: Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Marin, Monterey, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and YoIo. The cities of Fresno, Manteca and Tracy have issued similar orders.
What do I do if I become sick or quarantined?
If you’re unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19, you can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. DI provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60% to 70% of wages (depending on income) and range from $50-$1,300 a week. For guidance on the disease, visit the California Department of Public Health website.
We are required to hold officer and/or delegate elections, but that is now impractical or impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What should we do?
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an advisory on union elections for unions affected by COVID-19. The advisory generally states that all labor organizations are expected to make a good faith effort to conduct elections in a timely manner. In the event a complaint is filed with the Department it will first seek to schedule an election through a voluntary compliance agreement before seeking civil enforcement of a LMRDA violation. Under these current circumstances, one can assume that the AFSCME Judicial Panel will find it reasonable to have postponed elections if every effort is made to have the election as soon as possible when the crisis subsides. Elections that are covered by the LMRDA (e.g., delegate elections to the International Convention or officer elections in affiliates who represent members in the private sector) are also subject to the civil enforcement provisions of the Act.
Affiliates who traditionally conduct in person elections may wish to conduct a mail ballot election. This is generally permitted, unless the affiliate’s constitution specifically prohibits using a mail ballot for elections. The AFSCME Local Union Election Manual has a section focused on mail ballot elections and is available on the AFSCME website. The International Union is available to answer questions, which should first be directed to your OFS Regional Director or the Office of General Counsel.
Our constitution requires that we hold monthly executive board and/or membership meetings. How can we conduct routine business while social distancing interferes with face-to-face meetings?
Article X, Section 51 of the International Constitution allows for regular or special meetings of officers, executive board, or membership (excepting conventions or elections) to be conducted by audio or video teleconference. While that provision requires the union executive board to adopt a written policy that adheres to the policy set forth in Appendix E of the Constitution, if an affiliate has not already formally adopted such a policy, your leadership may adopt the policy by audio or video teleconference, provided you adhere to the requirements of Appendix E.
If a teleconference membership meeting is not feasible (because your membership is very large, for example), then you will need to plan to return to regular membership meetings as soon as it is safe to bring your membership together. In the meantime, the union should continue to prepare monthly financial reports and the Executive Board, at least, should meet using video or teleconference to conduct necessary business of the affiliate and record meetings minutes.
If we have a new collective bargaining agreement or MOU that we need our members to consider and vote upon, how can we do this if we cannot meet in person?
The AFSCME International Constitution gives members the right to full participation, through discussion and vote, to ratify collective bargaining agreements (including MOUs that impact terms and conditions of work), and to have pertinent information in order to exercise this right. Members should be advised in advance of the proposed agreement, and the upcoming vote to ratify. There is no defined number of days’ notice required, so apply a reasonable notice under the circumstances.
Votes may be done by mail, in meetings, by telephone, by the internet, or any other way that accurately and fairly allows all members to vote. Votes in meetings may be done by voice vote or show of hands (including in a telephonic meeting hosted by an operator), or written ballot. Secret ballot is not required. However, no matter the method, an accurate record of the vote should be recorded. Remember that members have the right to pertinent information before voting whether to ratify an agreement. This right to information requires an adequate explanation of the proposed agreement, including an explanation of any significant changes from the previous agreement. Membership must be given enough information to allow them to make an informed choice.
What types of services are available for conducting teleconference meetings?
There are several audio and/or video teleconference platforms that allow for full membership participation as is required under the International Constitution. Below are a few suggested platforms. Please note that some of these platforms have costs associated with them.
- Free Conference Call
- Hangouts Meet
- Microsoft Teams
- One Voice
- Teletown Hall
- Uber Conference Call
I heard that Congress just passed a new law mandating new leave requirements for COVID-19. How does that affect my rights as a worker?
On March 18, Congress passed a new federal law in response to the coronavirus crisis that creates a temporary right to paid leave. However, not all employers are required to provide the leave and not all employees will be eligible for it. In general, there are two kinds of leave required by the law: Emergency paid sick leave, which is the most widely available leave of the two kinds but is provided for only two weeks, and emergency family leave, which is available for a longer period but only in very limited circumstances when a parent needs to care for a child. Download this fact sheet for more information on your rights and the requirements in this new law.
Am I considered an essential or non-essential worker? And how should I handle my job in either case?
Each public service employer in California has been in the process of sending all “non-essential” workers to either work from home or be at home and await instructions if there’s no telework that can be performed. “Essential” employees are workers who, according to your employer, can’t miss work or it would cause harm to public health and safety. Being sent home will be on paid time and won’t require you to use vacation, comp or sick time. Whom is sent home and when may take some time or days to determine. This is an ongoing conversation between labor, management and elected officials. If you’re having any issues, contact your steward or business agent.