Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Gazette, like many newsrooms across the state, has been inundated with reports from employees with concerns about how their jobs and their companies are putting them at risk.
One woman who works for a national fast-food chain emailed The Gazette to say that in the store where she works employees don’t have access to masks and are required to sanitize the store every hour, but that’s not enough time and there aren’t enough employees to complete the task. This not only puts employees at risk, but customers as well who come into the store for food.
One person wrote to tell us about inadequate sanitation practices at their workplace even after employees have tested positive for COVID-19. He wrote, “This company, so obsessed with staying running over the lives of its employees ...”
Another employee sent a direct message to The Gazette over Twitter to warn about the way nurse’s aides aren’t being protected in their places of work.
Each complaint is anonymous because these are Iowans who are afraid to lose their jobs, but they are also afraid of the ways their companies are putting their lives at risk. Each of these Iowans have no recourse, no way to complain, no way to hold their companies accountable for their lives and welfare.
On March 30, a reporter from KCCI asked Gov. Kim Reynolds about these concerns at a news conference. KCCI has also received numerous complaints from employees. But Reynolds was dismissive of the concerns saying simply that she was talking to employers and they were doing their best. But the stories that are streaming into our inboxes show a different reality — one where profits are being put over the welfare of people and Iowans who need their jobs go to work without proper protective gear and sanitation equipment. And they come home every night to take care of children with asthma or aging parents who are at risk.
Reynolds has already refused to issue orders that would force these companies to shut down. In lieu of that, Iowans need better protection and better oversight from our elected officials. Companies need more than just a talking to, there needs to be a system of reporting and or the threat of fines to hold large companies and business owners accountable for the health and safety of their workers.
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Additionally the state and businesses in our state need to make sure employees have the training and tools to keep themselves safe and aggressively implement solutions that protect workers.
It’s clear, many companies will not take this threat seriously unless they’re forced to. And the longer companies refuse to be responsible, the longer this pandemic will continue.
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