June 22, 2020

Surviving COVID-19—with pay

Both Josh Howard and Erin Hamilton-Howard work at Logan Correctional Center and are members of AFSCME Local 2073, employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc. Josh is a behavioral health technician and Erin is a medical records clerk. The couple were two of the four staff at Logan that tested positive for COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

“I was getting bad headaches, a little congestion, tired, I thought it was from the stress of everything,” Josh said. But soon it became clear what it was when Erin became so ill she couldn’t work. With four children and being fairly new to their jobs, Josh and Erin had used up most of their paid time off. They worried how their family would make ends meet.

“Thankfully, within a week, our local union had a memo of understanding for paid COVID-related time off, up to 80 hours,” he said. “That was a huge relief. I thought, now I only have to be stressed about being sick. I don’t have to worry about whether or not we’re going to get paid for the next two weeks.”

A former special education teacher, Josh said his new career at Logan working with offenders with mental health issues is a natural progression. A lot of the women he helps in his psychoeducational groups used to be special education students and he understands the traumas and challenges they face.

“The union’s response to all this craziness solidified for me that I made the right career move,” Josh said. “There was a significant problem between us and management, and AFSCME solved the problem for us all within a matter of a few days. That was amazing for me.”

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