On April 9, NAPE Chairperson Deb Strudl (DHHS, Lincoln) delivered a letter to Governor Pete Ricketts calling on him to protect our members while allowing vital services to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NAPE/AFSCME Executive Committee met via conference call on Wednesday, April 8. From Falls City to Scottsbluff, the Committee unanimously voted to call on Governor Ricketts to immediately allow all state employees with the capability of working from home to do so, to close offices to the public while continuing to provide services by phone, and to immediately pay a $2.00 shift differential as hazard pay to workers who must report to work in person.
“Our members understand the critical importance of the work they do, and that’s why they must be protected,” said Strudl. “If we aren’t kept safe, there will be no one left to provide essential services to the most vulnerable Nebraskans. Every time we are exposed, we wonder if we are bringing this disease home to our families or if we won’t be able to go to work tomorrow.”
The union office has been inundated with concerns from members since the beginning of the pandemic. “Our members do not understand why they can’t work from home, and those in local offices do not understand why they are providing face-to-face services when there are clear alternatives,” said NAPE Executive Director Justin Hubly. “Our economic assistance workers and Department of Labor workers, for example, understand the public needs their help, but encouraging the public to come in person to an office conflicts with the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ message from the governor’s office. We think these services can be provided over the phone.”
Some workers must report to work during this critical time, such as workers at our Veterans’ Homes, Regional Centers, and correctional institutions. The union calls for an immediate $2.00 hazard pay shift differential until the emergency passes. “We have to keep our members safe and recognize the sacrifice they are making for our community,” said Lindsey Eads, Veterans’ Affairs Supply Clerk (NDVA – Kearney) and member of the NAPE Executive Committee. “If our staff isn’t protected and taken care of, who will care for our residents?”