The Frontline Is Everywhere — SEIU Local 721 Members Profiled in the LA Times

The frontline against COVID-19 is everywhere. It’s in our hospitals treating the sick, it’s in DPSS helping the more than 1 million unemployed in LA County alone, and it’s in the streets keeping our communities from falling apart. Public sector workers from Riverside, to Los Angeles, to Ventura County are bearing the brunt of working around-the-clock and dealing with all the health risks and the pressure to keep our counties and cities resilient during this pandemic.

But one thing is also very clear, the frontline is also in Washington D.C.

Politicians in DC are passing coronavirus stimulus packages to give away hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of luxury hotel conglomerates and steakhouses while turning a blind eye to workers. A few so-called leaders in DC are attempting to use worker pensions as bargaining chips in this crisis. Despicable.

With unemployment skyrocketing and budgets throughout California facing unprecedented cuts — any meaningful recovery must start locally and with our frontline workers. That’s why we’re going full-throttle to push a  #Stimulus4Workers package that includes $500 billion in aid to fund the vital services and more (read full details). Working families can’t suffer any more blows that can set us back for generations.

The stakes are just too high, higher than they have ever been, and we know that every public sector worker is essential, pandemic or no pandemic.

The work done by every SEIU 721 member has kept our communities from succumbing to flat-out havoc and the media has taken notice. The LA Times is profiling 3 SEIU Local 721 members in a 9 Essential Worker feature to drive home this point.

Many of our stories are countless, and often faceless in the media, but know that the world is watching and thanks you.

Please share the excerpts from the published Los Angeles story with your fellow co-workers and join the fight for #Stimulus4Workers

*excerpts pulled from from the Los Angeles Times


Nine essential workers describe what their lives are like during the coronavirus outbreak


April 28, 2020

LA Times Essential Workers
(Times photo staff)


Ruben Rios, maintenance and construction worker

LA Times Portrait of Ruben Rios
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Ruben Rios is a senior maintenance and construction worker at the Puente Hills landfill. He helps maintain the gas system, where the gas is trapped, sent to an energy plant and used to create electricity, servicing some 30,000 homes a day. At work, social distancing is strictly enforced: Workers do not change in the locker room at the same time, and their schedules, including start times, break times and lunch times, have been staggered. Rios says that his employer has been great during this time. “They’ve been really good at responding to what we need.”

Esbeida Refugio, disinfectant specialist

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Esbeida Refugio, 39, disinfects hospital rooms at LAC + USC in Boyle Heights. She’s been on the job for eight years and loves what she does. She takes pride in knowing that her work is giving the patient who takes over one of her disinfected rooms the opportunity for a clean slate. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m trying to avoid other people getting infected with the virus.” On any given day she cleans up to five rooms that were spaces for COVID-19 patients. Even when the patient is negative for the coronavirus, she still disinfects the room in the same way. She wants everyone who is admitted to go home healthy and be safe. “I’m here for patient care” but also “to protect the doctors and nurses too.” They all have families, just like her. She has four children that range in age from 21 to 1, and they are aware of what she does. “I know if I get the virus and have to quarantine, I can depend on my family to take care of the kids.” She’s found herself cooking more these days because she does not want to go out anymore than she has to. “If I’m exposed at work, I don’t want to be exposed on the street.”

Simboa Wright, wastewater collection worker

(Gabriella Angotti-Jones/Los Angeles Times)

Simboa Wright has been a wastewater collection worker since 2001 with the city of Los Angeles.

“First off, as union members, we are proud to serve Los Angeles and protect the environment. We are fearful, of course, of catching a virus. We are here to maintain 6,700 miles of sewer system. We have the largest municipal sewer system in the nation. And we have a lot of catch basins that we have to maintain also. My wife is a nurse. We’re really concerned with her being on the front line. And also, she does have to deal with patients with the virus, unfortunately. Every day union members are putting ourselves out there on the front line, to not only protect sewers from overflowing and debris going into the ocean, but we are out to continue to maintain the streets. We’re out to continue to maintain the parks. We’re out to continue to maintain all these essential services that many Angelenos take for granted.”


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Is there any talk for hazard pay for frontline workers?

County Employee

I’ve been asking the same thing since March. Those that have been continuing to work have an increased workload and exposure.