Union workers at the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, the Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center, the Arkadelphia Human Development Center and the state Agriculture Department have complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that their requests for agencies’ OSHA-guided safety plans have gone unanswered and that they not been provided with personal protective equipment.

From the news release from Local 100, which has 8,000 members in Arkansas, most of them employed by the state to provide case management and patient care:


“At some worksites last week, workers were told that the plan was only available miles away, at the main office,” says Local 100 organizer David Graber. “At others, requests were deflected or outright rejected. This is an obvious violation of the employer’s responsibility to provide all workers with an OHSA plan. If workplaces don’t even have a copy of their plan onsite, how can we expect them to be taking concrete steps to keep their workers safe?”

A social worker at the Jefferson County agency said that though there were people in the office who’d been infected with the coronavirus, “we were never told or given the option to work from home. … It was months before we got hand sanitizer, or masks were required in the office.”

According to a story by Vox about a culinary union lawsuit, OSHA’s safety guidelines are toothless, anyway. The agency has “taken a laissez-faire approach to the pandemic — issuing non-binding guidelines on keeping workers safe that bear few consequences for employers who break them,” Vox reported.


The Times has asked the Department of Human Services and the agriculture department for comment.