My name is Gloria Atkinson and I have been with Hackensack Meridian’s Jersey Shore hospital for seven and half years. I am a Patient Care Technician (PCT). My Jersey Shore co-workers and I are fighting to organize ourselves into a union with HPAE.
From the beginning, the coronavirus pandemic hit us hard and took a lot out of us. Often, it felt like we were flying blind and without a net, with no support or clear guidance from our employer as policies changed every day. We always had a sense of a disaster waiting to happen.
At first, we were told to throw away goggles and shields but, then, they quickly ran out and told us to save them. We were also supposed to save our N95 respirators in a brown paper bag.
N95s are horribly uncomfortable when worn for 12 hours straight. They cause headaches, pressure sores on our faces, and make you tired. They are meant to be single use for one patient, not 12 hours straight with many patients. Our scars from prolonged use of respirators may heal in time but many of us will not soon forget the suffering and deaths that we saw on the COVID-19 pandemic frontlines.
Or, that we had to fight with our employer to get PPE and training on how use it.
That’s one of the reasons we are fighting for a union. We want to have a voice, a seat at the table to help plan where and how we get PPE and how they are deployed during the continuing crisis and in future disease outbreaks.
Being in a union will give us a process to try to achieve fairness. There will be give-and-take involved, instead of the current situation where workers give and Hackensack Meridian takes. I would like a chance to achieve balance, to achieve accountability that being in a union will give us.