Message from Andre Phillips, Chair of the DYRS Labor Committee:
I’m writing on behalf of the FOP Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) Labor Committee with some very sad news, and a plea for solidarity from the Lodge. As you may know, the FOP DYRS Labor Committee (“Union”) represents about 260 Youth Development Representatives (YDRs) at the DYRS facilities. These folks are youth correctional officers. They are essential employees who have continued to report for duty during this crisis. They don’t receive any extra pay for reporting under these circumstances. (Unlike many private sector employers who still ask their employees to report during the crisis, the District does not offer any additional compensation.)
The Union has been advocating and begging for better protections for these folks since the beginning of this emergency. Basic protections such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, or places to wash hands without requesting relief from duty have been denied to the YDRs. This is true even as there are two confirmed COVID-19 cases among the confined youth and at least 15 more kids on quarantine within the facilities.
The first youth who tested positive is presumed to have contracted the virus from a U.S. Marshal who had previously tested positive. This Marshal is also presumed to have transmitted the virus to people connected to the Department of Corrections. After discovering the Marshal’s positive diagnosis, a number of YDRs who had come into contact with that individual were placed in quarantine because of the exposure. It is with heavy hearts that we learned this evening that a member of our bargaining unit who was ordered into quarantine after being in contact with the Marshal contracted the virus and passed away from related complications. He was in his mid-forties and otherwise healthy.
It is sadly the case that this death could have been prevented. We have been attending meetings as well as begging everyone at various levels of the executive branch to please protect our members. We have filed grievances and done our best to quell the fears of our members. But now one of our own has died because of contracting the virus at work. We can no longer push paper and attend meetings while our folks are dying from lack of protection. We need to have PPEs for all members of the bargaining unit (gloves, masks, respirators). We need adequate sanitizing stations and products. We need temperature screening for everyone who enters the facilities. We need access to the same testing offered to first responders. We also need and deserve the same admin closure pay we would get when we report for duty during a snow closing. We need and deserve hazardous duty/environmental differential for exposing ourselves to this risk on a daily basis.
We are asking for the Lodge to support us in elevating these concerns to the public consciousness and to leaders who will get us the protections we need—now—before anyone else dies from a virus they contracted in the line of duty without basic protections.
D.C. Dept. of Youth Rehabilitation Services Labor Committee