Solidarity helps spirits amid tragedy
Illinois Department of Human Services developmental and mental health residential facilities have been hard hit by the coronavirus. The state’s two largest developmental centers—Ludeman DC staffed by AFSCME Local 2645 and Shapiro DC staffed by AFSCME Local 29—have suffered the most.
Hundreds of residents and staff at the facilities have been infected with COVID-19 and, tragically, several people have died of the disease, including four AFSCME members.
After the death of the fourth member of Local 2645, AFSCME members at Shapiro wanted to help bolster the spirits of their brothers and sisters at Ludeman who continue to care for the center’s residents. They printed a huge banner to show their support: AFSCME Local 29 Supports All Ludeman Heroes!
Local 29 members Angie and Hank Fry and Tatia Godin installed the sign on May 15. Angie Fry and Godin are pictured with Local 2645 member Sheelah Payne-Perry and President Crosby Smith.
Smith and his fellow members were very touched by the gesture.
“Being a union is about unity and solidarity,” Smith said. “And we’re grateful for that right now.”
It took a full-court press from Council 31 and local union leaders to ensure that staff had the necessary PPE and to halt movement of staff from one unit to another at these centers.
“At the very outset we had major concerns about the facility’s plan to address COVID-19, including PPE, basic cleaning, timely disclosure of known cases, proper social distancing and consistent temperature checks,” said Local 2645 President Crosby Smith. “Management didn’t address our concerns quickly enough and now we’ve lost four beloved members.”
Management is now more open to dialogue, Smith said, but “there is still work to do by the administration to better support the very dedicated employees who come every day because we care deeply for those we serve.”
“Tragedy has touched every one of us, yet AFSCME members are standing strong, determined to do everything possible to protect their health and rights,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “We can serve our communities and safeguard ourselves if we continue to stay united during this unprecedented time.”