COVID-19 Update for Holyoke DPW

A Letter From Steven A. Toleman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO by Lisa Colon 4/16/2020:

Dear Chair Moore, Chair Naughton, and members of the Committee,

On behalf of over 400,000 union families in Massachusetts, including tens of thousands of workers on the front lines of this pandemic, I am testifying in strong support of HB4611/SB2602 An Act relative to emergency hazard health duty.

Thank you for your tireless efforts to combat this pandemic, both on the public health front and the economic front. This unprecedented crisis has undoubtedly laid bare how intertwined the two are – and how important every day working people are to keeping every family safe, secure, healthy and fed. There are currently tens of thousands of essential workers in Massachusetts on the job – and they are on the front lines of exposure to this virus. Whether police, fire fighters, EMTs, corrections officers, nurses, doctors, health care workers, janitors, pharmacy, grocery and food production workers, transit workers, child care workers, social workers, or construction workers – the virus can equally infect them and their loved ones, and leave them economically devastated if they are infected with COVID and unable to afford health care or pay their bills.

That’s why we think that every worker considered essential to keeping our Commonwealth functioning during this very difficult time should at a minimum receive free childcare while working; free coverage for all coronavirus treatments, tests, medicines; the personal protective equipment they so desperately need to keep themselves, their families and the people they serve safe; and they should be continued to be paid in full if they become unable to work, presumably because of exposure to COVID while on the job.

As it stands now, first responders who need to take time off of work due to COVID could be forced through a process of proving who, what, when, where and how they acquired this debilitating virus, even in the performance of their duties and amidst an unimaginable shortage of testing. There should be a presumption by the Commonwealth that any worker who becomes ill during this pandemic contracted their medical condition or incapacity to work in the line of duty, and they should be paid for on duty time without having to use any paid or contractual time off.

We hope that you report this bill out of your Committee favorably and swiftly. Thank you for your consideration and for your public service.



Steven A. Tolman,



President Toleman along with the UFCW Local’s 328, 1445, 1459 and other unions are working together with state legislators to support the passage of an “emergency hazard health bill” designed for essential workers and first responders to paid in full if they become unable to work due to exposure to COVID-19 while on the job.  

The proposed bill is different from “hazard pay”, which typically is an hourly premium that some Employers have temporarily adopted for essential and first responder workers.  The proposed emergency hazard health bill seeks to provide additional financial protection without a worker having to use any accrued paid or contractual time off.

When Employers are unable or unwilling to provide additional protections and compensation during this crisis, unions are taking it a step further by bringing their members health, safety and economic concerns to political leaders in hopes of strengthening protections for workers and their families.  

I will keep you updated of any further developments.


COVID-19 Holyoke DPW

As of April 9, 2020 the city has equipped their employees with the proper personal equipment (P.P.E) that they need to perform their job at Holyoke D.P.W. They assured me they have changed their work schedule and shifts to properly practice social distancing in the work place. Also they have divided their staff into two (2) shifts rotating every other week off with full pay. The city has kept their employees safe through this COVID – 19 pandemic, at this time The Union doesn’t have much leverage to demand The City to pay $2.00 an hour increase.


COVID-19 Update for Holyoke DPW

On April 3, 2020 I sent a letter over to the Mayor of Holyoke Alex Morse asking him to fully equip the Holyoke D.P.W with the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so that the members can do their job in a safely manner.

I also asked for a $2.00 more per hour for essential community service compensation to all of our members that have been outside in the public since day one risking their health and safety and taking the chance of spreading the virus to their families.

Here is the response I got back from the City for the things I requested for our members at the Holyoke D.P.W.

Request 1: Glasses or Goggles for Eye Protection

City Response: We delivered 50 sets of Goggles on Friday to augment existing DPW supply of protective eyewear

Request 2: Masks to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

City Response: Each worker has been provided with a reusable mask. We have also provided supplemental disposable masks and are continuously working on procuring additional masks to ensure a consistent supply. I would be happy to provide an update on this request. We are following OSHA guidance on this and will be supplying all staff with the information from OSHA and CDC on proper use of PPE. In addition to mask provision, we have made changes to our staffing schedule that drastically cut exposure. (See request 5)

Request 3: Small and Medium Gloves

City Response: We have been notified that no workers are requesting small gloves, but have provided medium gloves in addition to Large and XL. If any member requests small gloves, they will be made available in addition to all other sizes

Request 4: Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes to clean their trucks

City Response: We have contracted with local manufacturers and will be replenishing hand sanitizer and cleaning solution this week. It is our understanding that DPW currently has both, but is indeed running low. I will notify you as soon as the stockpile is replenished. As these new manufacturers are local, we expect this supply to be continuous and not an issue going forward.

Request 5: $2 an Hour pay increase

City Response: Our primary concern is the health and safety of our DPW workers. Recognizing the enhanced risk associated with COVID-19 we have changed our staffing policies for DPW laborers. Beginning last week, workers were divided into two shifts. Shift A is on for the week, while Shift B is asked to remain home (but on call), with no impact to their vacation or sick pay. Workers will receive the same pay as if they were mandated to be in every day. In addition to the shift in schedules, changes have been made to ensure proper social distancing can be followed at all times through procedures that keep workers from sharing vehicle cabs.


COVID-19 Update for Holyoke DPW

Holyoke D.P.W : During the State of Emergency, Holyoke D.P.W employees with a Doctor’s note for coronavirus related illness will be allowed time off without having to use annual leave time.


COVID-19 Update for Holyoke DPW

Holyoke D.P.W : During the State of Emergency, Holyoke D.P.W employees with a Doctor’s note for coronavirus related illness will be allowed time off without having to use annual leave time.