Airport workers at San Francisco International Airport held a vigil Thursday in honor of their colleagues who died from COVID-19 and demanded that Gov. Gavin Newsom put airport workers and other essential workers back on the vaccine priority list.
SEIU United Service Workers West, a union representing more than 40,000 janitors, security officers, property and airport service workers, was incensed by Newsom’s Jan. 26 announcement that changed California’s vaccine distribution plan.
The vaccine rollout was shifted to focus on those 65 and older, and booted essential airport workers down a tier, increasing their wait time until vaccinations will be accessible.
“The governor made these changes to the vaccine priority list even as poor black and brown people, who make up a majority of the essential worker population, continue to die at a higher rate than other Californians,” the union said in a press release.
Under the original plan, transportation, commercial, manufacturing and residential workers would receive the vaccine sooner, but the change pushed them down on the list to prioritize age above all else. The other groups currently prioritized for vaccination are health care workers, long-term care residents and people at risk of exposure working in education, childcare, emergency services, food and agriculture.
“I have co-workers that have gotten the virus and co-workers who died from the virus. This situation is serious. It feels like we are playing Russian Roulette every day. Governor Newsom, please do what’s right and make the vaccine available for all essential workers,” said Tiffany Jones, a security screener at SFO.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
During the demonstration at SFO, airport workers named their fellow union members who died of COVID-19, and placed flowers on a wreath to commemorate them.
San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa spoke at the rally in support of their cause.
“It’s an issue of equity … We’re leaving people behind, and we’re leaving communities of color behind,” Canepa said.