The critical shortage of personal protective equipment is a running headline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So members of OPEIU Local 2 had reason to celebrate this week when they secured thousands of masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes for frontline workers in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

On Monday, April 27, Metro Baltimore AFL-CIO Community Services donated 1,250 surgical masks, 3,000 gloves, and 700 hand sanitizing wipes to Kaiser Permanente for distribution.

Local 2 First Vice President Mike Spiller, Metro Baltimore Labor Council President Jermaine Jones, and Community Services Director Tommy McLaughlin presented the supplies to OPEIU Local 2 and UFCW Local 27 members and managers at the South Baltimore County Medical Center.

Protecting Frontline Workers

“This is all about protecting our workers,” said Spiller, who also sits on the Labor Council’s executive board.

“They can’t stay home, they need to come to work. Hopefully we can give them a bit more security so they can go home without endangering their families,” he said.

Council members had been looking at ways to help local workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. They reached out to a local distributor and contracted to buy the equipment using existing funds. It took just over a week to make the deal.

“Right now in America, the people who are keeping this county functioning are healthcare and low-income food service workers. If not for these people, America would be completely shut down. They’re keeping us alive economically,” said Spiller.

Every Mask and Glove Counts

OPEIU Local 2 President Linda Bridges said, “We are truly grateful to the Baltimore Labor Council and the Community Services Agency. Everyday union members come to work and put their own lives on the line in this environment. Something as simple as a mask or a pair of gloves can make a huge difference.”

“It is not just protecting their health, it protects their families,” she said. “Today, Labor came to the table and told them we care. Thank you to all our sisters and brothers who made this happen.”

OPEIU Local 2 represents nearly 5,000 healthcare and administrative workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

To respect Kaiser Permanente’s guidelines on PPE use, Spiller said, the masks, gloves, and wipes were given to Kaiser Permanente to distribute, not to individual members.

They’re hoping this won’t be the last infusion of badly needed PPE. “If we get some more money, we’ll do this again,” Spiller said.