Letter to the Editor: Being essential sucks

Editor’s note: Typically Plumas News doesn’t run letters without full names, but is making an exception in this case, as it is a unique circumstance and the first time a Plumas County employee has spoken out in this venue.

Being an “essential” County employee over the last few years has really sucked.

We showed up day after day while everything around us was shutting down. We masked up, gave extra hours to staff shelters, run hotlines, and ensure basic public needs continued to be met. We responded to public crisis’ and grappled with our own fears, unsupported.

Leadership and public figures failed so miserably that often it felt like we were unwelcome and expendable.

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No telecommute policy for hourly staff, no COVID leave for those of us working front lines, little to no communication about safe work practices and publicized defiance of Public Health mandates.

Repeatedly, leadership demonstrates little value in our well being and often creates the atmosphere of us versus them. Attempts to reach elected officials go unanswered and department heads are often undermined or left to take the fall when problems arise.

Some county staff are still operating on wages at or just pennies above minimum wage while annual union negotiations fall flat and result in little gains for the “essential” worker. Shooting down requests for humble, deserved COLAs and then giving themselves a 10% raise.

Meanwhile our insurance premiums continue to rise, and county contributions stay the same. Do you know that for a year of family benefits the share of costs for an employee is over $10,000?! Most covered providers aren’t even in our community, requiring out of town travel or a forgoing of needed care.

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Staff have been asked to continue to give, continue to show up, continue to risk our health and the health of our families, while county leaders continue to say no, continue to tear us down. This year’s “staff appreciation” (Also a community free event), was cancelled without substitution or even a thought.  Currently the governor has approved COVID leave for counties to use but County of Plumas says we, the staff, better keep track of our COVID related illness for when/if the county leaders approve the use of the funds.

It’s not enough to throw us scraps and a pat on the head (though, it would be a start). It’s not enough to say keep going like the heroes you are. It’s not enough to send another email so devoid of consideration that you ask the IT department to send it on your behalf.

We are sick, we are tired, we are disappearing, ….and somehow we are “essential”.

What will you do without us?

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Jessica

Plumas County