Los Angeles Parks & Rec Employees Impacted by COVID-19

Sean Rivas typically spends his 12-hour shift at a Los Angeles shelter taking care of its homeless residents. As as Recreation & Park Assistant, he makes sure the residents are fed and have access to a shower, bed, and warm blanket. Now Sean has the added task of making the shelter residents feel comfortable during this COVD-19 pandemic.

The homeless population in Los Angeles is one that is often left behind, but workers like Sean do what they can to make sure they aren’t forgotten. “When we started I had to use my personal network of resources to help get things covered. We got items that were needed like towels, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, and other resources from my friends in a political group I am a part of,” Rivas said. Other employees have had similar stories about having difficulties getting what they need.

 Roxanne Glaze, who also works for the Department of Recreation & Parks as a Recreation Coordinator, initially did not feel protected by Los Angeles City management. As a vulnerable employee with an underlying medical condition, she was offered an opportunity to work from home. However, her application was denied without reason. She tried for weeks to resolve the issue, but not until she contacted her union representative did her application finally get approved. “After getting in touch with my union rep Gary Glaze, he guided me on how exactly to handle the situation,” says Glaze, who is a member of AFSCME Local 901. She was approved to work two days from home and three days on site. “Having to report is still a risk for my health and safety so I reached out once again to Gary and his partner Luciana (Giorgi). They then sent an email to Mike Shull on my behalf and the very next day I was placed on paid administrative leave.”

Los Angeles was understandably not prepared for this pandemic. It took city officials a while to start implementing policies that would protect their workers. There is still a lot they can do to better manage the situation, but they are doing a lot better. The city is now providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for Sean and his coworkers. The shelter only allows 36 beds to follow social distancing protocols, a maintenance worker keeps the building clean by constantly disinfecting high-trafficked areas, and an LAPD officer is on site to ensure the safety of the staff and residents.

While Los Angeles City is doing what it can to make employees feel safe, some are still terrified of the risks. Rivas, who is the Secretary-Treasurer for AFSCME Local 741, says his fellow union members and coworkers are still scared. Like many essential workers, Recreation & Parks employees are terrified of contracting COVID-19 and potentially bringing the disease home to their loved ones. We are all doing our part to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, but we never know the effect our interactions with one another will have. These have been terrifying times for all of us, but it has also caused us to come together as a community to fight for each other and support one another. Hopefully, these times will teach us important lessons about how to protect those around us, even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic.