President's Message: Day of Mourning and Occupational Health & Safety Week

In past years, I’ve written about the historic significance of why we honour people who were killed or injured on the job.

This year it’s different. Very different.

This year we are witnessing in real-time the very life and death consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I guarantee that I’m not the only one writing about this as part of Day of Mourning or Occupational Health & Safety Week.

Why write anything then?

Because our members need to be on record about the absolute importance of us standing stronger together – at a safe distance – in order to save peoples’ lives.

We’ve been forgiving to our political leaders who aren’t necessarily functioning on all cylinders lately.

But we still need to hold them to account on protecting people who go to work and stare COVID-19 in the face every day on the front lines of health care and our community-based organizations (CBOs).

Their work is personal, intimate, and is relied upon by so many people in our community.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one tangible way to protect our front line heroes every day.

But there is another injury that we all, and front line workers maybe more-so, are suffering from and that is the mental health toll.

Social distancing and self-isolation are definite problems for all of us.

If you add to that the fear of walking into your workplace knowing you could be exposed at any time; and the fear that you might expose your family when you go home; and the daily anxiety of wondering if you’ve done enough to keep you, your family, your patients/clients/residents, and coworkers safe it’s no wonder we’ve heard that some of our members are in tears at the end of the day.

This is the mental and emotional strain that our members go through on a regular basis but magnified by a number I can’t even conceive because of this pandemic.

Our members are helping each other by being a sounding board, sharing their fears, and their coping mechanisms and we’re proud of the work they do every day.

My heart breaks for the family of our SEIU sisters and brothers from Ontario, New York City, Washington DC, New Jersey and Quebec who lost their lives to this disease, because they were committed to a job serving others. We ache to our soul because of the loss of union and non-union working people, deemed essential, who got up every day and went to work – only to lose their lives to COVID-19.

They cannot die in vain.

We need to protect our front line health care and service workers now so they can continue to provide us the care we rely on.

I’m asking you to support our members’ calls for better safety precautions for front line heroes.

Please continue to show you support them by clapping at 7 pm, and donating to charities as these very important shows of gratitude and love.

We will prevail because we are stronger together, even when we’re apart.

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President of SEIU-West

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