Washington, DC - In light of the outbreak of COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) cases emerging in the United States, Asian American workers are speaking up on how xenophobia and racism interact with America’s inadequate healthcare system and outdated labor laws to endanger workers and hinder disease prevention. Over 2 million AAPIs work in healthcare, transportation and service industries--these workers are facing xenophobic and racial discrimination in the workplace in addition to increased exposure to communicable diseases. Without federal policies guaranteeing paid sick leave and adequate health insurance coverage for all workers, many working people are effectively prevented from following the CDC’s guidance to stay home when they are sick.
APALA National Executive Board Member and Association of Flight Attendants - CWA Local 29011 member Stan Kiino states, “As flight attendants, we are well trained with regard to health and safety protocols because we have been on the frontlines of deadly viruses such as SARS, Ebola, swine flu (H1N1) and avian flu (H5N1). We face higher risks of exposure to illnesses through travelers’ coughing and sneezing in enclosed spaces. As we escalate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we must prioritize protecting workers by informing them with facts, providing protective gear, and creating contingency plans as our workplaces are closed or scaled back; cancelled flights impact our ability to pay bills.”
APALA National Executive Board Member Ligaya Domingo and SEIU 1199NW Education Director, “Healthcare workers are the ones who care for us when we are sick, but as workers on the frontlines they face an increased exposure to illness. That is why we need to ensure that hospitals and healthcare facilities have sufficient staffing levels, well informed workers, personal protective equipment for all workers, and screening protocols that are based on likely exposure to the virus, not anyone’s language, skin color, or country of origin. COVID-19 is preventable and treatable, but only if we ensure working people are informed and protected.”
APALA National Executive Board and UTLA/ AFT/NEA member Arlene Inouye states, “As a proud product of California’s public education system and as Secretary for UTLA, the second largest teachers’ local in the country, I know very well how educators are often left to figure out how to support sick students who come to school because their parents are not able to take a day off work. During times of heightened xenophobia and racialized discrimination, we are also left responsible for protecting all students and creating safe environments for them to learn and thrive. Right now, with widespread misinformation related to COVID-19, we are ready to protect our Asian American students, who already face some of the highest rates of bullying in this nation.”
Employers must include a protocol against racial discrimination in their responses to COVID-19. APALA issues the following guidance to protect Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers: