State employees petition for safe COVID-19 working conditions

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska The Alaska State Employees Association has submitted a petition to the governor with more than 400 signatures on it, demanding safe working conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The union has also gone to court, seeking a temporary restraining order to force the state to provide safe working conditions during the corona virus outbreak.

The petition urges Gov. Mike Dunleavy to take immediate action to reduce work in what the ASEA says are congested offices without the ability to practice social distancing of 6 feet, and without access to sanitizing solutions or proper protective equipment.

Jake Metcalfe, Executive Director for Local 52 said in a press release
"Our contract guarantees employees safety and security in the workplace. A pandemic does not mean that our contract goes out the window. This is when it is especially important that we look out for everyone’s health and safety due to the high rate of transmission of this virus."

Gov. Dunleavy, when asked about the petition and lawsuit during a Tuesday evening news conference about the coronavirus outbreak, said "Those of us who are telecommuting, we're doing it. Those of us who are in a category who may be vulnerable, they're having discussions with their supervisors. So there's a process that's happening now in the state office buildings."

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson and Dept of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka issued a joint statement Tuesday night in response: "The State places the safety of its workforce as a priority but at the same time the State has an important obligation to all Alaskans to keep vital services open and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The State tried in good faith to work with ASEA and create workable solutions for all State employees during this difficult time. The State provides many essential services and it is not responsible for the State to completely close down all of its offices and allow everyone to go on Administrative Leave. Protective measures have to vary by agency and office, and State offices are doing all they can, as fast as they can, to allow work from home, staggered hours, and limiting employee contact to avoid the spread of contagions."