San Diego County workers joined a union caravan to demand sufficient protective equipment and hazard pay. Photo by Chris Stone

SEIU union members pressed the Board of Supervisors on Monday to provide hazard pay and adequate protective gear for essential county workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Dubbed the “Supervisors Caravan of Shame,” the event saw workers driving 40 cars circle county operations offices in Kearny Mesa — holding and displaying signs as they honked.

Messages included: “We are essential workers. We demand hazard pay” and “Shame on supervisors.”

“(Supervisors) really let down the county workers that are out there on the front lines, doing the job that they ask them to do,” said David Garcias, president of SEIU Local 221.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher made a proposal last Tuesday for the extra pay and PPE assistance, but the board didn’t take up the measure.

County employees at psychiatric facilities, skilled nursing centers, the county jail, child protective services and family resources face members of the public with diagnosed and potential COVID-19 cases, said Garcias, whose union represents some 10,000 municipal employees in San Diego and Imperial counties.

While some workers have N95 masks, others have to make do with non-N95 masks or bandanas, he said.

“Then they have to go back to their own families and have to make sure they don’t bring that to their own families,” said the union leader. “We are asking for a modest hazardous pay, but we also want the county to invest in better PPEs.”

“It’s a scary situation for our members,” he added.

In addition to masks, workers need hand sanitizers and face shields, he said.

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Rob Sills, director of the county Medical Operations Center, didn’t directly address demands by the Kearny Mesa protesters, saying in response to a query at the daily briefing: “We’ve been looking at the days we’re going to reopen county businesses for weeks now.”

Sills said the county has been getting extra supplies and “working with each of the departments to get the total number that they need and they’re requesting.”

He said disinfecting wipes, face coverings and “whatever they ask” has been sought, including scanners for temperatures and other supplies.

County officials have repeatedly stated at daily COVID-19 press conferences that no shortage of masks exists and that county workers have the PPE that they need.

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