Kern County workers address safety guidelines amid plans to reopen

Jocelyn Perez, Reporter

A virtual press conference was held by workers of Kern County to emphasize essential efforts and urge for workplace safety amid plans to reopen on May 5.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the next phase of re-opening, known as “phase two,” which would take place along with following certain guidelines and modifications in order to proceed.

Kern County employees, represented by the​ SEIU Local 521, have put forth efforts to make it apparent of the health guidelines that they will follow to move forward in the phase. Community members could also expect to follow the same guidelines as the transition commences.

“Any plans to reopen must take into consideration the impacts on working conditions for county employees,” Andre Taylor, Administration Coordinator of the Police Department, said.

Taylor stated that the Kern County Board of Supervisors requested that the essential workers have a seat at the reopening task force.

“As this task force prepares for a plan to safely reopen businesses, the same standards must be explored for the reopening of county services where thousands of county workers conduct their work,” Taylor said.

Kern County Chapter President, Veronica Vasquez, stated that efforts that have already been made in order to become a part of the task force are requesting lobby visits with the board of supervisors. In addition, a letter has been submitted requesting to be on the task force. Angee Esparza, an essential worker, reminded everyone on the conference call that there is still a lack of personal protective equipment in high-traffic areas and that essential workers are being limited to minimal amounts of supplies for their daily use. 

“It’s important, the safety concerns of the essential workers, and that we are provided the adequate protection equipment so that we can serve,” Esparza said.

Esparza stated that the need for essential hygiene products should be a top priority for the board of supervisors as a transition into phase two is being made.

Taylor stated that as progress is continued to be made addressing the concerns in the workplace, standards currently in place will need to be increased dramatically as they prepare for the economic reopening phase of the county.

“We urge the Kern County board of supervisors to ensure that we are represented and given a voice to share our concerns that not only impact the residents we serve, but the families we provide,” Taylor said.