More than 70 new Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) have been hired by the Seattle Fire Department to help support services at COVID-19 testing sites throughout the city. While these jobs are temporary – likely just lasting the duration of the coronavirus pandemic – many workers are signing up to be a part of PROTEC17, knowing that unions support their health and safety in the workplace. 

At the four COVID-19 testing sites located around the city, CSRs help patients register, schedule, and check-in to appointments to get tested for the virus, and work alongside firefighters and EMTs, many of whom have volunteered to serve the sites. 

New PROTEC17 member Jacqueline Rocha works at the Rainier Beach test site, which is a walk-up site located at the high school. She is the only Spanish-speaker at her site. As she registers patients, she helps them feel comfortable and tries to dispel any fears they may have about the cost of testing, the need for insurance, the privacy of the results, and other issues. 

“I go out of my way to make them comfortable,” she said. “I am able to use the skills I learned in retail to be able to talk to complete strangers with warmth and even humor to ease the fear they may have taking the test.”

There are four testing sites total, including another walk-up site at Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle, and two drive-through sites in SODO and Shoreline – both at former car emission testing sites. The testing is free and insurance is not required. 

Rocha applied for the CSR job because she wanted to lend a hand to help combat the coronavirus.  

“This virus has disrupted everyone’s life, in every respect, and in every country,” she said. “So working to fight this virus, in even a small way, interested me.”

In just a few months on the job, Rocha has been impressed by the level of dedication and commitment her colleagues have to their important work, and is proud of the visible impact they are all having on the education and testing to help get the virus under control in Seattle.

As for why she joined PROTEC17 as a temporary worker, Rocha said the choice was clear.  

“Unions stand up for people like me,” said Rocha. “It’s not just wages, but other benefits – health insurance, paid leave…”

Rocha recalled when air traffic controllers were striking for better wages and working conditions in the 1980’s, and how there was an uptick in accidents after the union workers were fired and non-union employees were brought on.    “Even though I am a temporary worker, I know that I am benefiting from gains made by the union before I started working for the City.”