Julia Shenkar,, 202-317-0540

Issued March 23, 2020

SEIU’s Henry, frontline healthcare workers call on Trump administration to drive a coordinated, transparent response that will protect all healthcare workers and patients

Unmet demand for personal protective equipment ‘outrageous’ Henry says


WASHINGTON — SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry and frontline healthcare workers today called on the Trump administration to show the leadership the country has been waiting for, and ensure all healthcare workers have the personal protective equipment they need to safely treat their patients. Their demand comes on the heels of a letter sent Friday to Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar that urged the administration to “move beyond business as usual and come together as a nation” to ensure the health, safety, and economic well-being of frontline healthcare workers. 

“This administration needs to take coordinated, comprehensive action now, said Henry. It’s outrageous that states should be forced to “outbid” one another to get supplies to healthcare workers. It’s outrageous that healthcare workers are being asked to make their own masks. Or even worse, reuse them. If we wait, more healthcare workers will be in danger and more lives will be lost.”  

Gabriel Montoya, Hospital Emergency Medical Technician, Downey, Calif. 

“Imagine coming home from a really long day at your job and being afraid to kiss and hug the people you love,” said Gabriel Montoya, an Emergency Medical Technician in Downey, Calif. and member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. “That’s the reality my co-workers and I are dealing with right now. Without the proper PPE, we don’t feel safe.”

Yazmin Soto, Nursing Home Certified Nursing Assistant, Perth Amboy, N.J. “As a CNA, I work very closely with many residents every day.  I feed them, I dress them, and I help them in the bathroom. I get dirty and coughed on a lot.” said Yazmin Soto, a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and member of 1199SEIU-United Healthcare Workers East. “I need fresh equipment so I don’t spread illness around my facility or get sick myself.”

DeSharna Johnson, Home Care Worker, Los Angeles, Calif. “Long before the threat of coronavirus, union home care workers pushed the county to provide us with personal protective equipment to keep us and the seniors and people with disabilities we care for safe and healthy,” said DeSharna Johnson, a home care worker and SEIU 2015 member in Los Angeles, Calif., who cares for her mother and a 91-year-old neighbor. “With shelves now bare, it’s been a godsend to have masks, gloves and hand sanitizer on hand so we don’t have to place ourselves and our clients at greater risk going store to store to get what we need.”

Melanie Arciaga, RN, Hospital Registered Nurse, Seattle, Wash. “There is a chance that we will all be exposed to the novel coronavirus at some point in our work,” stated Melanie Arciaga, a registered nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., and member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “As this crisis continues, we need access to more Personal Protective Equipment quickly so we can fit and train all healthcare workers in our hospital so that everyone is protected.”

As COVID-19 spreads, SEIU members are calling on Congress to ensure all working people have healthcare coverage and paid sick time, and that elected officials and corporations put financial relief for working people first, not airport bailouts and multi-billion dollar corporations.

More than one million healthcare workers across hospitals, in home care and in nursing homes, are united in SEIU, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers.