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Union helps frontline workers get COVID-19 vaccine in Washington

SEIU helped janitors, security officers and airport workers, many of whom have not been able to get vaccinated until now.

SEATTLE — The easing of COVID-19 vaccine restrictions has opened up access for everyone to get the shot.  It has also made it a bit tougher to get appointments, especially for some frontline workers who have continued going to work throughout the pandemic.

SEIU Local 6 hosted a clinic Saturday to help workers like janitors, security officers, and airport workers get vaccinated. The union partnered with Discovery Health and planned to offer more shots Sunday and other weekends down the road.  

Mike Guzman, a janitor, doesn't like shots but he'd do anything to protect himself from the situations he had to deal with this last year. 

He'd show up for his job and be told someone had tested positive for COVID-19 and he had to clean the area.  

Guzman said it was scary with only a mask and gloves to protect himself.

“They don't even care about janitors. Without us, no buildings would be clean, no buildings would be sanitized," he said.

He had plenty of close calls but didn't get sick. Guzman feels they should have had the vaccine a lot sooner. 

“I'm glad we have it now but it's too late, I feel we should have had it a long time ago in the beginning," Guzman said.

Ambar Arellano also works in a janitorial position and had to worry about getting sick and giving it to her daughter.

“We clean, we disinfect we make sure people have everything ready at their job and they can be secure there, and I feel they forgot about us," Arellano said.

Union leaders said it was important to help some of these workers in frontline jobs get the vaccine so they can be protected. 

They estimate more than 75% of their members belong to BIPOC communities.

“We've had dozens of members pass away from COVID-19, we did a survey and about 10% have contracted COVID-19. And the numbers go up when we talk about households,” Union President Zenia Javalera said.

Before they left, they scheduled a follow-up dose.

Mike Guzman still isn't wild about shots but he said he was happy to leave there halfway vaccinated.