No PPE for Miami-Dade Home Care Workers until Local 199 Stepped In

Ashley Sanders has an essential job. As a Home Care Aide with the Community Action and Human Services Department in Miami Dade County for the past seven years, she cares for elderly residents with disabilities and helps them to lead healthy and active lives in their own homes and communities. "I love what I do," said Sanders,  "I care for people and help make their lives better. It's challenging but fulfilling work."

When the COVID-19 crisis hit Miami in March, Sanders and her colleagues continued to go to work everyday but got the brush off from management when it came to concerns about the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). "For two whole weeks, we received nothing. I was scared. I work in people's homes," she explains. "My jobs entails daily physical contact with people." 

Sanders assists with personal care for her clients, bathing, cleaning, and close personal contact. She generally knows that her clients have not been out during the quarentine but she has no way of knowing if a familiy member staying in the homes of her clients has followed social distancing guidelines. "I've been on edge. We got nothing in the way of masks, gowns, gloves, wipes...nothing. We were putting our lifes on the line."

That's when she called her union. Sanders reached out to AFSCME Local President CeeCee Brown who right away contacted management. "At first, we were told this was a national shortage of PPE and there wasn't anything that they could do." said President Brown. "Then we reached out to the County Commission and the Miami Herald and things miraculously changed."

After a March 28 article appeared in the Miami Herald discussing the lack of PPE during Ashley's home care visits in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, two things happened: management at Miami-Dade County's Community Action and Human Services Department immediately began providing PPE and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez donated 150 face masks to Ms. Sanders from supplies the County recieved.

"My Union made sure the issue was addressed immediately." said Sanders. "The article came out Friday and by Monday, I had supplies." Thankfully, all Home Care Aides in Miami Dade County currenty have enough supplies to perform their jobs safely. Sanders said the County rations supplies and that new PPE is distibuted once a week. At the moment, it's just enough. 

"The public needs to know that the people we care for are vulnerable." says Sanders. "We need to take care of them just like we would want to be treated when we grow old."

"There are times when workers such as Ashley are overlooked." added Local 199 President CeeCee Brown. "The services that workers like Ms. Sanders provides are not only essential to the County but most importantly essential to citizens that are high risk and in dire need of the assistance. Ashley and all of members that make up AFSCME are the real MVPs and true heroes during this crisis.


Home care providers and so many other public service workers across the country are maintaining essential services during this crisis at great risk. It's time for Congress to do their part. AFSCME is calling on Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to #FundtheFrontlines. If Congress doesn’t act fast, a terrible crisis will become even worse.