Friday, April 14, 2023
Frontline essential workers who sacrificed health and safety during the first year of the pandemic will receive an average of $1,300 in pandemic pay.
On Wednesday, April 12th the Connecticut State Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve the pandemic pay arbitration award. The Connecticut State House of Representatives similarly voted to approve the award on April 5th. By approving the award with strong bipartisan support, the General Assembly showed their appreciation for the sacrifices essential state employees and their families made to keep Connecticut open and provide vital services during the height of the pandemic.
“Every time I left the facility, I thanked God that nothing happened and then began mentally preparing for the next shift,” said DOC Lieutenant Samuel Quintana, CSEA SEIU Local 2001 leader. “But then one day I left the facility and ended up spending 9 days in the ICU with COVID fighting for my life. My 4 year old daughter did not understand at the time, she just wanted to see daddy because for nine days she saw her mommy crying because she thought daddy was gonna die. Each and every day I thank god I was strong enough to survive for them. No amount of money can ever make up for these sacrifices, but it certainly helps.”
“It’s very hard to see a patient die in front of your eyes when you cannot do anything. There are a few patients that I cannot forget and it still makes me cry,” said Momina Salman, MD, an academic hospitalist at UConn Health and a member of UCHC-AAUP. “The first year of the pandemic was a very hard time for frontline healthcare workers. It’s hard to explain. I can’t think of how any amount of money can compensate for what we went through. But this pandemic pay is a way of validating that we did something that in our history we have never seen before, and it is an honor for those of us who worked during that time.”
“When in person learning resumed in Fall of 2020, I interacted with hundreds of students,” said Corey Mason, a teacher within the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System and a member of SVFT Local 4200A, AFT-CT. “I taught in a small classroom and often worked with students one-on-one. Social distancing was impossible, and teachers were regularly exposed to students who tested positive for COVID. On top of this was the stress of trying to provide good instruction to students who were remote and students whose mental health was suffering as a result of the pandemic.”
“We were there 18 to 20 hours a day along with clinical staff that was assigned to the unit,” said Catherine Nadeau, a Equipment Control Coordinator at Connecticut Valley Hospital and a member of CEUI Local 511. “To turn that unit into what was necessary at the time. Again, as the clients were coming in, we were right there with them. We were in their rooms with them. We were providing and maintaining equipment. We were constantly exposed. It was not a suggestion of exposure. We were constantly exposed to Covid.”
“Working during the pandemic forced many people to rethink their jobs and their future. I was responsible for the emotional, psychological and physical safety of some of the most vulnerable children in the state. It was nearly impossible to manage our own fears, our coworkers’ fears, and the children’s fears, and the rumors that COVID-19 was in the facility. When the governor issued the ‘stay home, stay safe’ directive for Connecticut, I continued to show up with my colleagues for long shifts despite the dangers ahead.” Darnell Ford, Lead Children Services Worker at Solnit Children’s Center.
“When responding to medical emergencies we are not able to socially distance from the people we are treating, including people with suspected and confirmed COVID cases,” said Dan Starvish, a Firefighter Paramedic at Bradley International Airport and President of IAFF Local S-15, CPFU. “At the time, we did not have a good understanding of how COVID spread or how effective PPE was. These unknowns made treating a potential COVID patient even scarier, and I constantly worried that I would bring COVID home to my family. I was isolated on multiple occasions from workplace exposures causing me to be away from my family including on holidays. This award shows recognition for the sacrifices first responders and other essential workers made.”
“Our corrections members performed faithfully and heroically during the COVID crisis when there was no vaccine and almost no protective gear,” said Sean Howard, president of AFSCME Local 387 representing 5,000 corrections employees. “Despite knowing the danger they faced, my members showed up for work every day to protect the citizens of Connecticut, the inmates and fellow staff members. Connecticut corrections staff suffered more than 7,000 cases of COVID. I caught COVID early, before there was a vaccine and have permanent heart damage as a result. I suffered through wondering if I brought home this infection to my wife and my young son. This award is small, but it is meaningful. It is a societal recognition of the courage of my members.”