Labor Council fights to vaccinate to union workers

By Sheri Williams

The Sacramento Central Labor Council is working with unions and allies to ensure that all union workers have quick access to the coronavirus vaccine.

Recently, union partners held a vaccine clinic at Natomas High School where 1,500 union members received the life-saving shots.

“I am on a mission to make sure that all union workers in Sacramento have the chance to receive this vaccine,” said Sacramento Central Labor Council executive director Fabrizio Sasso. “And not just union members, but every essential worker and their families who have struggled so much during this pandemic, and who have borne the brunt of its economic and health effects. We are here to make sure Sacramento workers are protected.”

Christina, a member of Unite Here, which represents hospitality workers, was one of those receiving the shot in Natomas.

“Union yes!,” she said as a worker injected her. “I feel great. … I want to see my family and I want to get back to normal.”

Christina said she was nervous prior to getting the shot about having a reaction, but afterwards said, “I’m fine. … I am so happy I did it.”

But like many, she said she wasn’t sure about the vaccine at first. After hearing information about the safety of the vaccines from trusted sources like her union, she decided to do it. “I trust the science,” she said.

Nneka Jackson, a medical social worker and SEIU-UHW member, spoke on Facebook about the vaccine and her reasons for taking it, though she too has reservations as an African American woman. Like many others, she is familiar with historical cases in which African American citizens have been treated unfairly by the medical system.

“Historically, what we have been told … is that African Americans are like guinea pigs… and so there is a lot of fear and there is a lot of stigma there,” she said. “We really thought about it and decided that it is the responsible thing to do, that since we are essential workers, we are frontline workers and we are actually blessed enough to be one of the first people to get the vaccine, how could we not protect ourselves and our family members?”

Labor is working to inform its members about the safety of the vaccines because many groups are spreading disinformation about the shots, especially online.

“It’s our job to do everything we can to keep our workers safe, and that means ensuring they have accurate information about these vaccines,” said Sasso. “I have taken it, my older family members have taken it. I trust these vaccines and the medical research that has been done on them, and I encourage all essential workers to get the shot to protect not only themselves, but their family and friends.”

The Natomas clinic brought together more than a half-dozen unions, including SEIU USWW – Sacramento, UNITE HERE Local 49, Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522, California Nurses Association, UFCW 8-Golden State, Sacramento Area Local 0066, APWU, National Association of Letter Carriers133, IBEW Local 1245, UDW Home Care Providers Union, AFGE District 12, IUOE Local 39, SEIU Local 1000 and SEIU Local 1021.

“A huge shoutout to our union leaders for recruiting and a big thank you to Natomas Unified School District, Dr. Rusty Oshita, Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby and her Chief of Staff Karina Talamantes, Sac CLC Executive Board member/CNA member Shirley Toy, and everyone who showed up and volunteered,” said Sasso after the event.

The SCLC is also working on other ways to safely reopen the economy while protecting workers. That includes advocating for hazard pay for dangerous jobs such as grocery workers and helping to extend a package of workers protections passed by the Sacramento City Council last year. Those laws include rights to safe workplaces.

More vaccine clinics for union workers are being planned. Union workers can all schedule the vaccine at local drugstores including CVS, Walgreens and Safeway by using their websites. Appointments at local clinics can be found at myturn.ca.gov. The vaccine is free to all people, regardless of immigration status. There is never a charge to the individual receiving the shot. For more information about the vaccine or resources in other languages, please contact the Sacramento Central Labor Council.