Union Workers at Ohio’s Correctional Institutions Continue to Call for Additional Protective Equipment as Hazardous Conditions Continue Within ODRC Institutions

Workers continue to request additional protective equipment and for the Ohio DRC to re-evaluate safety and staffing policies amid the COVID19 pandemic.

For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 20th, 2020
For more information, contact: Joshua Norris at (877) 419-7348

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Workers with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction state with urgency that the lives of staff and inmates are at-risk. Members of SEIU District 1199 say that despite good faith efforts to request improvements, they are still not being provided with additional personal protective equipment. Workers also say that ODRC administrators along with Governor Mike DeWine continue to fail to hear their concerns.

“Just since March this year, nearly 100 individuals have lost their lives within ODRC facilities due to the pandemic. These individuals are all confirmed cases or were listed as probable for COVID19,” said Joshua Norris, Executive Vice President for SEIU District 1199. “Union members with SEIU District 1199 who work at ODRC facilities, these workers provide vital social services and health care. It is imperative for more to be done to protect workers at these institutions. We are calling on ODRC administrators, OhioMHAS administrators, Ohio Department of Youth Services administrators, and Governor Mike DeWine, to act now with urgency on behalf of staff and inmates.”

Union members with SEIU District 1199 are asking for the State of Ohio to allow work from home status when possible, such as for workers with OhioMHAS Recovery Services and to provide additional and/or higher-grade protective equipment,” Norris continued. Workers with ODRC institutions say that unless providing direct care, they are not being provided with N95 masks, which offer a higher level of protection against COVID19. N95 masks are being provided at the discretion of administrators. “Workers have the ability to wear cloth or surgical masks – we do not believe that cloth masks offer enough protection in these facilities. Where are the N95 masks and what will be done if conditions deteriorate. If not N95 masks, the State of Ohio could issue face shields to all staff members, in addition to surgical masks, and eliminate cloth facial coverings, among other potential improvements,” Norris continued.

“At this time, 1,026 staff members have contracted COVID19 at ODRC institutions. It is a fact that COVID19 is a substantial risk to these workers. Members continue to ask what more can be done to ramp up the availability of PPE and bolster current safety protocols. These workers are heroes who are putting their lives at-risk on behalf of inmates and the public,” concluded Norris.

SEIU District 1199 leaders and Union members are calling on Governor DeWine and directors with the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to immediately reevaluate their policies as they relate to COVID-19, the delivery of care and services, and the availability and use of effective personal protective equipment.

SEIU District 1199 represents health care workers and staff members who provide services on behalf of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. SEIU District 1199 also represents workers with OhioMHAS Recovery Services and the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

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