COVID-19 infections related to workplace outbreaks increased by over 450 cases in the past week, according to the Oregon Health Authority. 93 Oregonians have lost their lives and 17,844 have contracted COVID-19 from contact associated with outbreaks at work. The increase in workplace outbreaks, while a lower rate than seen at other points in the pandemic, is concerning to unions and advocacy organizations including the Oregon AFL-CIO but hope remains that Oregon is on a path toward recovery. That hope is coming from progress in the Oregon legislature, as well as through grassroots worker organizing and action.
“Unions in Oregon are pushing forward to protect working people. It’s encouraging to see lawmakers consider expanding healthcare access to part-time faculty across the state,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it very clear that the status quo doesn’t cut it for working people anymore. We cannot build back our economy to the point it was a year ago, we must create a future where prosperity for working people and families is a certainty, not an out-of-reach aspiration.”
Across Oregon, workers are taking grassroots collective action to demand better standards in the workplace. President Trainor remarked on two inspiring campaigns in Bend and Springfield at healthcare facilities:
“Essential workers are making it clear that legislative action alone will not propel us forward. The change we need to see can start on the shop floor. Memory-care workers in Springfield are on strike this week because understaffing at their facility has had deadly results. In Bend, medical technicians are fighting for a living wage so that they can afford to live in the city where they work. It is incredibly inspiring to see workers stand up for fairness at work, and we hope to see lawmakers tackle our pandemic recovery with the same enthusiasm as we’re seeing on the streets of Springfield and Bend.”
The Oregon AFL-CIO has compiled Oregon Health Authority data into a searchable online database of workplace outbreaks of COVID-19, which may be found at www.oraflcio.org/osha.