Maintaining infrastructure and services during the pandemic
April 08, 2020
Unit 3 member Kelly Galdones is one of many HGEA members whose jobs are essential in keeping our communities stable. “My role in infrastructure maintenance can’t be done from home,” he says. The Department of Public Works employee primarily assists with bridge maintenance and inspection – which is extremely important on the Big Island. “We’re still working, but it’s scary,” he says about the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re lucky that Mayor Kim supports limiting public contact. A lot of our offices are open, but we’re running skeleton crews to get our work done until we get through this.”
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended issuing personal protective equipment for essential employees, Galdones contacted his union agent Audrey Kahawai-Kekipi asking for help. "We had concerns, so I reached out to Audrey and she got me some answers. While Audrey was researching my questions, the county was already having conversations about closing offices to protect employees and minimize contact with the public, I just didn’t know it was already happening.” Galdones knows he's not considered a front line employee, but recognizes the importance of what he and other essential Unit 3 members do every day. "Support staff may not be top-of-mind when thinking about essential workers, but the services we provide during a crisis really are essential to maintain government services."