Topic

Coronavirus Workers

325 petitions

Started 2 months ago

Petition to Office of the State Inspector General, Michael C. Westfall, State Inspector General, Virginia Governor, Tim Kaine, VEC Leadership, JLARC , Pat-Levy Lavelle, Brenda Castaneda, Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess, Joyce Fogg, Megan Healey, Len Bennett, Amy Austin, Steve Fischbach, AG Mark Herring, Delegate Dawn Adams, Senator Ghazala Hashmi, Delegate Kirk Cox, Delegate Ken Plum, Senator Mark Peake, Delegate Lamont Bagby, Senator Adam Ebbin, CBS6 Problem Solvers

Investigate the Virginia Employment Commission’s Leadership for Fraud, Waste and Abuse

As certain sectors of the economy came grinding to a halt during the COVID19 pandemic, thousands of businesses across Virginia faced the tough decision of reducing staff or closing their doors entirely. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Virginians faced unemployment, the vast majority through no fault of their own.  At the beginning of the pandemic, each state was faced with an unprecedented number of newly filed unemployment claims. Understandably, many state employment agencies struggled to process claims in a timely manner and deliver payments to qualified applicants. After the initial chaos, most states successfully redirected resources and updated policies aimed at getting benefits out to qualified applicants as quickly as possible. This was not the case in Virginia. The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is responsible for providing benefits for unemployed Virginians who meet the state's strict eligibility requirements. The weekly benefits provided are only a small fraction of the salary that individuals had been receiving at their previous places of work. The average weekly benefit amount in Virginia is far below most other states in the country and the maximum amount a recipient can receive is barely above minimum wage. But for many, the money is absolutely critical for survival. Without it, many are unable to feed their family, pay for their children's doctor visits, or keep their electricity on.  Before the pandemic, the Virginia Employment Commission was already one of the worst performing state employment agencies in the country. The agency was understaffed to meet pre-pandemic workloads and running on a 35 year old software system when Covid hit. Eight years prior, the state government funded a massive IT upgrade that was intended to be implemented immediately but that upgrade never happened. Instead, the antiquated, highly inefficient system relied heavily on paper, mailed communication, and manual data entry. During the height of the pandemic, Virginia ranked 49th in the nation for resolving disputed unemployment claims, taking 163 days on average. Many of the issues in dispute were incorrectly ruled initially or the result of simple clerical errors by VEC staff or former employers. As a result, thousands of Virginians who qualified for benefits did not receive that money for 5 months or more. Despite these issues, the management at the VEC failed to increase staff until over a year into the pandemic despite falling behind and failing to meet federally-imposed guidelines each state must meet for processing claims and determining eligibility. After facing external pressures from a class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Legal Aid Justice Center, the VEC felt they had no other option but to pay benefits out to all applicants who had been waiting longer than 21 days for a decision on their claim. As a result of the VEC's inability to process claims on time from the outset, the agency doled out over $1 billion in incorrect payments. Many of those payments were distributed to Virginians who believed they met eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment insurance. After all, they began to receive weekly payments after submitting an application and received no communication from the VEC that indicated they were not eligible. As a result, tens of thousands of ineligible recipients received weekly payments for months on end. These ineligible recipients of payments from the VEC behaved in much the same way as qualified recipients, focusing on applying and interviewing for jobs that paid well and were a good fit. If ineligible recipients had known they were unqualified for benefits, most would have behaved differently during the time they received payments. Instead of focusing on applying to jobs that paid similar wages to their previous positions, they would have accepted the first job available to them, simply as a means of paying bills and putting food on the table. Because the VEC failed to provide a decision on claimants' eligibility for the program in a timely manner and instead sent money out to unqualified recipients, thousands of already struggling Virginians were instructed to pay back the money they received in error. Often, the amount owed exceeded $10,000 and was to be paid back with interest in 30 days time.  As of December 2021, thousands of qualified Virginians have not received a single payment of unemployment insurance, despite many losing their jobs over 4 months ago. In fact, it is common for applicants to wait over a year to receive their first payment. While waiting for payments, qualified claimants often suffer devastating financial hardships as a result of the negligence from the management at the VEC. Despite lengthy wait times, Most qualified unemployment claimants will eventually receive the payments that are owed to them. Unfortunately, for many, it will be too late. Thousands of formerly productive and successful workers now find themselves behind on bills, at risk of losing their home, facing bankruptcy, and even facing homelessness. It will take years for them to get back on track with bills or fix their credit and older claimants might even be forced into delaying retirement. Unlike the Virginians who were ordered to pay back payments made in error with interest, the VEC does not face similar repercussions for denying people their deserved benefits for months on end. No interest will be paid on benefits due to claimants for months and sometimes even years before they receive payment. Plea to State Legislators and the OSIG State legislators and the Office of the State Inspector General, it is time to act. The management of the VEC should be investigated and held responsible for the mental, physical and financial damages that thousands of Virginians have faced as a result of their malicious negligence. While VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess raked in over $164,000 last year for running one of the least successful state agencies in the country, thousands of struggling Virginians did not receive a penny of what was owed to them.  In addition to the obvious issues plaguing the VEC, the unprecedented level of fraud occurring at the VEC needs further investigation and oversight. Many in the media have theorized that the level of rampant fraud at the VEC could only occur as a result of an inside job. Regardless of the cause, the management was undoubtedly aware of the fraud much earlier than they admitted. Disturbingly, they took no actions to inform unemployment recipients that their data had been stolen or investigate how the breach occurred and how to stop it from occurring in the future. In the meantime, unemployment recipients who have been defrauded had their payments stopped suddenly and without warning. While the fraud is investigated and the claimant's identity is verified, payments are paused for months on end while a deputy adjudicates the matter, a process that should take a few minutes at most. These victims of unemployment fraud are punished for an action that occured through no fault of their own.  This fraudulent activity and any actions taken after the fact needs to be investigated. It is unclear what management knew about the cause of the fraud, when they knew it, and what, if any actions were taken to cover it up. It is very possible the actions of management were both malicious and criminal. Both Commissioner Hess and Secretary Healey have made deceptive and contradictory statements to the media about the cause of rampant fraud, often blaming claimants and taking no accountability.  Plea to Pro Bono Attorneys, Legal Aid Groups and Civil Rights Advocates In the past two years, thousands of Virginians have had their livelihoods ripped from them and now face extreme economic hardship and devastating financial implications that will follow them for years to come if no one steps up to help. The class action lawsuit filed earlier this year had a profound impact in holding the VEC's feet to fire. However, since the judge's imposed September deadline to adjudicate at least 95% of claims that had been stuck on hold, the agency has fallen behind again. The backlog is growing and the agency is not working at the same pace as they were in the summer months when they were forced to perform and meet specific milestones. Quite frankly, the progress made as a result of the lawsuit, was still far below an acceptable standard for performance. The VEC is reporting to various media outlets that their new online system has solved all of the agencies' problems. In reality, the new system has caused more problems than it has solved. Claimants were unable to file weekly claims or reach the support line for two full weeks while the system was launching even though they were told it would only be a few days. The new system is also slow and buggy and is barely an improvement from the old system. Additionally, since launch, the system has gone down for several days each week unexpectedly and without warning for "maintenance". Many claimants are unable to access the new system and customer support has not been trained appropriately on how to help them.  Unemployed claimants still need help desperately. They have nowhere to turn and legal recourse seems to be the only thing that pushes the management at the VEC to do what is right or at the very least, what is expected of them. 

Abigail A
56 supporters
This petition won 3 months ago

Petition to Rob Goggins, steve Hockett

Reduce hours of operation for families to spend more time together.

Great Clips has been catering to their customers since 1982. However, they haven't been catering much to their employees as of lately. This past year and a half has changed a lot. The whole country is running short staffed and Great Clips salon are no different. I know my salon is not the only one struggling to stay open for 12 hours, 7 days a week with the exception of weekends. If we do not have the staff to be open for 12 hours, why try to spread our employees thin? When in reality without us you won't have a salon to run. We've lost several stylists in the last few months and it's become very clear that our hours of operation and our 9 hour shifts are the biggest issue for our stylists. People have realized through this pandemic that their time is valuable and their time spent with their families is more important that working 40 hour work weeks, nights and weekends. They want their time back. They don't want to spend all their time short staffed at work with customers not understanding the issue we have staying staffed. We've spoiled our customer to think we are always there for them whenever they need us, but we don't have the staff to do that for them anymore.  I believe that we will all have happier salons if we change our hours of operation for all Great Clips Salons nation wide to 9-7 Monday through Friday and 10-6 Saturdays and be closed on Sundays. These hours need to be permanent, even after covid 19.  I know it would be an adjustment for our customers but these hours would still make it easy for them to get their haircuts, hopefully with shorter wait times due to having more stylists on staff. I truly believe we will be able to have a more energized staff that want to work for Great Clips with these new hours of operation. Please help us stay staffed by signing this petition to change our hours of operation for ALL Great Clips salons across the nation. 

Larissa A
709 supporters
Update posted 6 months ago

Petition to Bill Dodd, Gavin Newsom, DIane Feinstein, Kamala D. Harris, Mike Thompson

Armer Law; They take care of us. We need to take care of them.

Santa Rosa Police Detective Marylou Armer was denied COVID19 testing twice before she went into the emergency room, was put into a coma and died alone. Armer spent two weeks with a fever, aching body and shortness of breath. Armer asked twice to be tested for COVID-19. Armer was denied by Kaiser Permanente’s Vallejo Medical Center. She was not considered vulnerable because of her age and no underlying medical conditions. Armer was finally cleared to be tested on March 23, when her husband brought her to the emergency room. She was sedated, intubated, and placed in a medically induced coma. She died on March 31. Armer was with the Santa Rosa Police Department for 20 years and her death is devastating to all who worked with her to help victims of crimes that include domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, child abuse and elder abuse. But this is not an isolated incident. There have been several first responder deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the past few weeks – and there will be more. To date more than 20 law enforcement personnel alone, as well as nurses, doctors and firefighters have died from COVID 19.  Athletes and Celebrities, and those with money at their disposal have been getting tested when they have no symptoms. Marylou knew something was wrong and was denied access to healthcare that may have saved her life. "Armer Law" would allow that during any epidemic or pandemic, first responders which include but are not limited to; law enforcement, social workers, healthcare, and EMS workers, can NOT be denied testing, and should automatically be approved at the first sign of symptoms. They are on the front lines, entering people’s homes and having to make physical contact with the public, and they have the highest risk of exposure. Also provided would be regular, continued testing if necessary, and treatment covered by worker’s compensation, not sick leave. This death was preventable.  Our first responders take care of us, it is time to take care of them.   

Megan Berger
107,011 supporters
Update posted 8 months ago

Petition to President Robert Barchi, Board of Governors

We Are Not Disposable: Don’t Let Rutgers Purge Dedicated Teachers!

Monday, April 13, 2020 To President Barchi, the Board of Governors, and the broader Rutgers community: We Are Not Disposable: Don’t Let Rutgers Purge Dedicated Teachers On April 2nd, in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Rutgers announced a hiring freeze for all employees, including its adjunct faculty (called Part-Time Lecturers or PTLs). As most PTL contracts must be renewed each semester, this “hiring freeze” could effectively amount to termination for many of Rutgers’ most valuable educators. Since April 2nd, top administrators have instructed some university deans to reduce PTL positions by as much as 25 percent, and to also make cuts to curricula. Administrators made these decisions unilaterally, without consulting the labor unions that represent the more than 20,000 workers essential to fulfilling Rutgers’ core mission. Why are administrators endangering the education of our students and threatening to harm the most vulnerable members of its faculty? In response to this outrageous and unfair policy, we, the undersigned, demand the following of the administration: Rescind the April 2nd policy announcing a PTL hiring freeze; Rescind any instructions to Deans to cut PTL hires by 20% or more.  Further, in light of the nature of the COVID-19 health emergency and its implications for the lives and well-being of Rutgers most vulnerable teachers: Immediately provide access to Rutgers health clinics for PTLs, and all other uninsured part-time employees at Rutgers, free of any charge; Provide compensation in the amount of $1,250 per course to PTLs who put in extra hours to rapidly transition to remote instruction; Cancel spring course evaluations because it is unfair to evaluate PTLs for teaching for courses that were transitioned to distance learning; Advance all qualified PTLs applying for promotion this semester (before June 1st), without “classroom” observation; and Recognize and empower a Rutgers Community COVID-19 Task Force in which all stakeholders—representatives of faculty and other Rutgers’ unions, student representatives, and community leaders—are equal partners in crisis response. Context: Rutgers employs roughly 3,000 PTLs statewide, who teach thousands of courses, and tens of thousands of students, every semester. Most PTLs make less than $5,500 per course with no benefits, and have worked overtime this spring without additional compensation for moving courses online. Cutting the number of PTLs not only weakens Rutgers’ primary institutional mission—to educate students—it also makes little financial sense. Reducing PTL courses by 20-25% will net less that $6 million in savings, perhaps far less. If Rutgers needs to save money, why not do what Stanford and other universities have done, and begin with temporary pay cuts for top administrators who have the highest salaries? For example, athletic coaches some of whom earn well over a million dollars, continue to draw salaries even while Rutgers sports are suspended. Additionally, there are 247 administrators at Rutgers who make more than $250,000 a year. Temporarily capping salaries at $250,000 could save $29 million. Further, there is no evidence that the university in fact faces any budgetary emergency. We know that Rutgers retains a “rainy day fund” totaling as much as $805 million, and that it will receive federal stimulus aid (around $55 million). Why not use these funds to ensure the quality education and protect some of the university’s most experienced teachers? Why look to layoff the lowest-paid faculty members, especially when alternative employment is likely to be severely limited due to hiring freezes at other universities? The COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare the inequities in our workforce and our workplaces. Rutgers PTLs stand together, and in solidarity with all members of the Rutgers community and beyond, whose jobs and well-being are threatened by this crisis, to say: “We are not disposable.” Together, we have the power to stop the university’s thoughtless efforts to manage this crisis on the backs of its most vulnerable employees. We, the undersigned, call upon the administration to do the right thing and respond quickly to this petition and its demands. The PTLFC-AAUP-AFT Executive Board Ann Alter Lauren Barbato Frank Bridges Roseli Golfetti Sheryl Goski Amy Higer David Letwin Paul More Heather Pierce Bryan Sacks Dan Sidorick Karen Thompson Alex Walter David Winters Deonca Williams

PTL Faculty Chapter, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
3,550 supporters