Union Concerned for Capitol Groundskeepers’ Safety

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SACRAMENTO — The workers who keep the State Capitol grounds pristine for tourists say they have been the victim of recent physical attacks from homeless people in the area.

“We’re aware of five incidents in the last several months,” Brandy Johnson, a representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39, told FOX40.

Johnson says those are the incidents they know of because it’s difficult to get an account of the attacks from the Department of General Services which oversees state groundskeepers.

Those incidents include punches, scratching, hair pulling, and objects thrown at groundskeepers.

In one incident at the Secretary of State building a leaf blower was being used outside near a vent which homeless people use as a source of warmth.

A homeless man apparently didn’t like it, and he punched the groundskeeper’s face.

CHP officers treated the groundskeeper’s injuries, and they arrested the suspect.

In a grievance filed on Wednesday, the union asked the DGS protect employees and suggested pepper spray be issued to workers.

The DGS did not respond immediately to inquiries by FOX40, but they sent an email to union officials saying they are considering pepper spray as well as other safety measures.

The DGS also expressed concern about the liability pepper spray may cause the state.

The union says the department is not acting quickly enough and jeopardizing the safety of workers.

A concern about groundskeeper responsibilities was also previously raised by the union.

They say contractors equipped to handle hazardous and unsanitary waste should bear certain clean-up responsibilities.

Groundskeepers are also tasked with cleaning up human feces, used needles, and used feminine hygiene products left on state property.

The Government Operations Agency and the California Highway Patrol released the following statement to FOX40: 

“Any violent attacks against visitors or staff that work around the Capitol are unacceptable, and taken very seriously. Everyone has a right to a safe and secure working environment. The California Highway Patrol, which oversees security at state buildings, including the State Capitol, is enhancing patrol efforts to ensure the safety and security of staff and members of the public. There are also ongoing referrals to city and county services for resources available to homeless individuals. We will continue to track this issue closely.”

 

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