Security officers for Acacia say they lack sufficient COVID-19 protections

Security workers rally outside of Acacia Network’s headquarters.
Security workers rally outside of Acacia Network’s headquarters.
SEIU 32BJ
Security workers rally outside of Acacia Network’s headquarters.

Security officers for Acacia say they lack sufficient COVID-19 protections

They have accused Acacia Network of running out of masks and inadequately enforcing social distancing.
March 2, 2021

Security officers employed by a homeless shelter provider in New York City are accusing the organization of insufficiently protecting them against COVID-19.

Several workers organized by 32BJ SEIU rallied on Monday outside Acacia Network’s headquarters in the Bronx, accusing the nonprofit of running out of masks and failing to enforce mask-wearing, social distancing and COVID-19 screenings. 

A spokesperson for Acacia said the nonprofit is in compliance with health and safety guidelines, including providing sufficient personal protective equipment. “Since Acacia Network began administering COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible individuals – including front-line workers –  at our primary care clinics, we have offered to vaccinate staff from our homeless shelters, including security guards,” Gabriela González, director of communications for the nonprofit, wrote in an email. “We take all concerns raised by employees seriously, and promptly address them.”

According to a letter from the workers, seven of the 18 sites operated by Acacia do not regularly provide masks to guards and clients. They also said that they largely haven’t received training on screening clients or enforcing mask-wearing.

They said that these challenges put them at even greater risk of contracting COVID-19 in the congregate homeless shelters. One analysis from the Coalition for the Homeless found that the COVID-19 mortality rate for homeless New Yorkers staying in shelters was 61% higher than New York City’s overall rate as of June 1, 2020.

Terry Batson, a security officer with Acacia Network, said the organization was too slow in providing PPE, which is available where she works. “But still, some sites still aren’t getting it,” she told NYN Media, adding that she thought more training should be given to officers.

This isn’t the first time security staff working with Acacia have complained about their working conditions during the pandemic. Security officers who worked for now-defunct Sera Security Services, which Acacia contracted with, filed complaints last year against the company, alleging that it violated paid sick leave laws.

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
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