CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Secretary of State’s office employees said they walked off the job Tuesday after a coworker tested positive for COVID-19.
After the worker tested positive, the state only closed half of the Chicago South facility, at 9901 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. in the Roseland community, formally known as the Charles Chew State of Illinois Motor Vehicle Facility.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina on Tuesday talked to one of the employees who chose to leave. Molina also took concerns about the facility to the state.
Some of the workers at the Chicago South facility reached out to us Tuesday, while others at the building echoed what they had to say – the building should not be open right now.
They are concerned for their jobs, so they chose not to show their faces.
There were long lines and crowds of people outside the Chicago South Secretary of State’s office facility on Tuesday, even though half of the building was closed.
On Monday, the Secretary of State’s office announced that an employee at the Driver Services facility at the Chicago South office had tested positive for COVID-19. The Driver Services facility will be closed until Wednesday, Aug. 12, and all employees at that facility were to quarantine for two weeks, the Secretary of State’s office said in a Monday news release.
But the Secretary of State’s office said the Vehicle Services and Administrative Hearings sections of the building would still be open for those who have hearings scheduled or who have to renew license plate stickers or apply for titles and registrations.
Workers at the Vehicle Services section share the building and all its facilities. They claim they did not even know about the positive case until they showed up to work on Tuesday.
“No one told us anything,” a Vehicle Services employee said. “We came in this morning, the whole other side of the building is shut down.”
Concerned for their safety, we’re told at least 15 of those workers chose to walk off the job.
“People are dying from this,” the employee said. “People are dying.”
Some of the employees reached out to us.
“We have families to raise and to see through life, and you don’t want to get sick or possibly even lose your life because someone isn’t being as careful as they can be with your life,” the employee said.
The sign announcing the Driver facility being closed out front at the building doesn’t mention COVID-19, or the positive case there. A worker moved the sign it when showed up.
But the Secretary of State’s office did confirm the positive test for an employee on the Driver Services side of the building. In addition to the quarantines for the other employees, the Driver Services side of the building was cleaned according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the Secretary of State’s office said.
An employee who reported to work Tuesday expressed concerns about exposure by having had contact with the Driver Facility side.
“We’ve been in contact with all of these people over the past week or so,” the employee said.
Secretary of State’s office spokesman Dave Druker claims that is not the case:
“The employee in question worked on the Driver Services side and did not work on the Vehicle services side. We traced his activity and it was limited to the Drivers side. As a result, he and the employees on the drivers side are quarantined and that department will be closed until August 12.
“We have, or are in the process of notifying customers who had direct contact with our employee.
“We contacted the Illinois Department of Public Health before making the decision to close the Driver Services Department and keeping open the Vehicle Services Department at our Chicago South facility at 99th Street and King Drive. We did not have employees walking off the job, but rather employees from the Driver Services side-who had reported to work this morning- being told they had to leave and were being quarantined. The building was thoroughly cleaned and sanitized last night, and according to IDPH, it is safe for our Vehicles employees and customers. Out of an abundance of caution, we are closing the Driver Services side until August 12th.”
Druker claimed people did not walk off the job, though multiple employees said they did.
And those workers said it is not possible that only the Driver Services side was exposed, with all of the shared spaces and movement through the building. They call leaving half of this building open, for the public, irresponsible.
“It’s terrible,” the employee said. “This is a public safety issue.”
The employees we talked to are calling for more action now, and moving forward.
“We would just like for them to put our safety at the forefront. The building should have been shut down for at least a day, if not two, to have it thoroughly cleaned,” the employee said.
Molina checked in with CBS 2 Legal Analyst on the employees’ complaints and their employees choice to walk off the job. Miller said there are no rules that apply here yet and legal answer, leaving these decisions to employers and their employees – even at the state level.