State employee union questions who’s essential

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan State Employees Association has joined those questioning who is truly essential under the governor’s order to stay at home to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The union represents more than 4,700 people who work for the state of Michigan. 

“We just believe it’s paramount that health and safety of the employees come first in this situation,” MSEA Deputy Administrator Erik Bailey told News 8 Wednesday.

>>Who’s considered an essential worker?

The union has sent formal requests for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state leaders to reevaluate who’s deemed “critical” right now. 

The main concern? Those still going to work don’t have proper protection against COVID-19.

“Our ask to both the Office of State Employer and the Governor’s Office was (to) send these employees home until you do have those PPEs available,” Bailey explained. “We understand the importance behind her directive for the stay home, stay safe. We support that. We’re asking the governor, though, to consider ceasing all the nonessential work. So, ones that don’t deal specifically with public safety. Employees like our plumbers, our electricians, our park rangers, those individuals, to send them home immediately.”

Another part of the formal plea includes a request for the union to take part in a task force that will fight the continued spread, review the state’s response and focus on preparation in the future.

“This being a global pandemic affecting the majority of our workforce, we haven’t had before,” Bailey said. “This is precedent-setting times where I think we can learn from it. Work together with the state and the union to ensure that we are prepared next time and have a back stock of these PPEs and a response to it.”

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