When thinking about essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, most members of the public would not immediately think of public works professionals as being among the tens of thousands of dedicated and courageous workers on the front lines.
But, in reality there are thousands of Council 93 public works members on the job right now, and they've been there every day maintaining ensuring our trash is removed from the curb; maintaining our roads, bridges and sewer systems; ensuring we have access to clean drinking water; and much more.
Local 680 member Kevin Naughton is one of them.
Naughton, a longtime Local 680 member with the Arlington Highway Department, has been on the front lines since the start of the pandemic in mid-March. To practice social distancing and limit exposure the town has gone to one-week-on one-week-off split shifts with all crews on standby in case of an emergency, but the work and the needs of the public remains the same. "We are maintaining the critical infrastructure of the town for the residents' of Arlington just like we always do," Naughton commented.
To further protect workers- equipment is being regularly disinfected, trucks are limited to one worker, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer is supplied. Despite the precautions, Naughton noted that "due to the nature of the job, there is only so much we can do. The job necessitates being close to our co-workers. Whether it is in a hole, patching a street, or holding a post in place you are often going to be closer than six-feet. We are doing the best we can with social distancing and PPE, but we can always use more."
Naughton understands that his job is essential to the well-being of his community, but of course, he is "worried every day" about his and his family's health and safety. "My wife is a nurse and I am a DPW worker- we are both essential employees. It is the job we signed up for, but I worry about getting the people I love sick. I have two young kids at home. I worry about them getting sick. I worry about what we are going to do for childcare since their daycare is closed."
Naughton's story is unfortunately typical of the thousands of his brothers and sisters employed in municipal and state public works positions and all other essential workers. They all deserve our gratitude for their dedication and courage. This week, our union and organizations across the country are taking time to especially recognize Naughton and public works employees nationwide during the 60th Annual National Public Works week. Read a message to public works members from Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard HERE.
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