Findings reveal two-thirds of workers at Ebola screening airports haven’t received CDC recommended protective gear from their employers, highlighting the need for airlines and airline contractors to take action
WASHINGTON, DC –(ENEWSPF)–November 6, 2014. Five weeks after several cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the United States and in the wake of the ongoing epidemic in West Africa, less than a third of surveyed U.S. airport workers say they have received training on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) new guidelines regarding the Ebola virus, according to a new poll released by the Service Employees International Union today. Less than half of the employees surveyed reported that their employer had given them information about Ebola, despite employers’ responsibility to keep workplaces safe. The findings showed very few airport workers have received all of the protective gear recommended by the CDC, such as gloves, shoe covers, and face masks.
Perhaps most troubling, the survey found employees at the five airports with new enhanced screening procedures for inbound flights from West Africa are no more likely to have received information or updated CDC training. It should come as no surprise that 68% of airport workers surveyed reported they are concerned about coming into contact with the virus at work.
“There has been no change in the protection we see as cabin cleaners,” said Asmare Meshesha, an AirServ Cabin Cleaner at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. “We are as vulnerable to blood-borne illness as when my co-workers and I first complained to our managers more than a year ago.”
He explained that workers are still lacking equipment and have had no new special training, “The only new information we have gotten is that we were handed two pages about Ebola in English, but there was no explanation or training, and many of my co-workers cannot read English well.”
The poll surveyed 1,150 airport workers from airports across the country on landline and cell phones and online from October 23-November 1, 2014. The airports selected for the poll include the ten busiest in the United States by origin and destination and the five airports currently screening passengers for the Ebola virus due to heavy flight traffic from West Africa. The airports include: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago-Midway, Chicago-O’Hare, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Houston-Bush, JFK, Los Angeles, LaGuardia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington-Dulles.
“The alarming findings confirm what terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, and wheel chair attendants have been saying – airport workers need effective training immediately,” said Valarie Long, Executive Vice President of SEIU. “Employers – the contractors hired by the airlines – are ultimately responsible for ensuring these workers have the equipment and information they need to ensure their safety and the safety of the traveling public. Because they have not taken adequate measures, SEIU has been stepping up to the plate to train workers before the next crisis.”
The CDC released new protocols for airport personnel to safeguard both workers and the public against the spread of Ebola on October 2. But there are thousands of airport workers across the country who remain vulnerable because of the increased use of contractors, which has created a patchwork system with no centralized way to train workers on important safety procedures. In response, SEIU doctors and health and safety experts led trainings for airport workers in New York last month and will host similar trainings in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Newark, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., Seattle, and Washington, DC in the coming weeks.
SEIU members have also led efforts to train healthcare workers in the latest CDC recommended protocols, including training in New York City October 21st sponsored jointly by SEIU and employer organizations–the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Partnership for Quality Care. On Friday, November 7, SEIU local unions SEIU-UHW and Local 121 RN, as members of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the Partnership for Quality Care (PQC) will co-host thousands of front line healthcare workers in the largest Ebola safety educational session on the West Coast.
A full report of the findings can be found here.