How a pandemic and protests provide visibility

By By Marsha Sanchez, Internal Communications Manager, Relay Resources 10/16/2020
Adapting to Increased Customer Demand and Safety Measures During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Reflecting on 2020, we could easily get caught up in the negative events that have happened to define this year. But through our shared experiences, our employees at Relay Resources, who are often overlooked and are representative of marginalized communities became not only visible but appreciated, acknowledged, and better understood.  

When COVID-19 began to spread, our customers turned to our janitorial team for support in sanitizing and protecting their shared spaces. Suddenly, a profession that often goes unnoticed, was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Our team procured the correct supplies, including PPE, and began launching training immediately in the field to meet the new needs of our customers. Our enhanced cleaning protocols and communication around our approach strengthened our relationships with our customers as well as our union representatives, who shared our procedures as best practices for the janitorial industry. 

When protests grew through the streets of Portland, Oregon, giving voice to many underserved communities, Relay Resources janitors continued to dutifully clean the local and federal government buildings at the center of the demonstrations. Our employees, many of whom experience a disability and are part of the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community, were once again at the forefront but in a different way. As tensions grew around the protests, our janitors had to navigate not only the threat of COVID-19 but potential violence near their work sites. During all of this, Relay Resources committed additional support, resources, and mental health checks to cultivate resilience with both our supervisors and the janitors in the field. Throughout the following months, we received many messages of appreciation from our government customers who also leaned in to make sure our employees were taken care of, including Virginia Matthews, Building Management Specialist for the General Services Administration in Portland who said, “We are so very thankful for your work and the work of your teams during this unprecedented year. Please be sure to let your teams know their diligence and resilience does not go unnoticed.” 

This year has reinforced that even while we may be physically distanced, we are all connected. Supporting each other and aligning with our stakeholders helps create a safe, supportive environment for our employees. This experience will allow us to come out of the pandemic much stronger. By making the invisible visible, we are growing together to build a world where everyone has meaningful work. 

As part of our NDEAM celebration, the nonprofit agency (NPA) community has taken over the SourceAmerica blog for the month of October! They may write about how this year has impacted their workforce, how they are celebrating NDEAM, and/or what the future looks like for professionals with disabilities. A special thank you to all of the NPAs who are taking part in this blog series.