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EPA plan to reopen in Seattle could endanger its employees

Murray, Jayapal lead Democratic delegation in urging the EPA to work with AFGE to address safety concerns


SEATTLE (June 11, 2020) – Led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), the Washington state Democratic congressional delegation expressed concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reopen its Region 10 office in Seattle, despite the continued high rates of COVID-19 infection in the area.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the members of Congress questioned why Region 10 employees are being forced to return to their Seattle office for work despite the significant and continued health threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawmakers also pressed Administrator Wheeler to engage with the EPA Region 10 employee’s union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238, regarding health and safety measures and ensure that the concerns of Region 10 employees are addressed. In addition to Murray and Jayapal, the letter was signed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th), and Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th).

“Washington state has continued to see high rates of infection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making ensuring the health and safety of workers transitioning back to in-person duties of the utmost importance. Additionally, the Federal Government must act as a model employer and has a responsibility to uphold the rights and protections of the individuals it employs, including faithfully discharging its obligations to bargain with any union those employees chose to join. The issue presented here touches on both of those concerns,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We urge you to exercise your authority at EPA in a safe and diligent manner to meaningfully address the concerns of Region 10’s employees,” they continued. “Our nation stands at a unique moment in time and previously mundane acts of simply going into a public building can now have profound repercussions. Failing to bargain with your own employees is a step in the wrong direction at any time, but particularly now.”

Read the full letter here.

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