DSHS employees protest safety issues at building - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

DSHS employees protest safety issues at building

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Yakima, WA - Wednesday, October 31st

"What do we want?" a woman screamed into a bullhorn.

"Safety first!" was the response from the crowd of picketers.

There were about 25 employees of the Department of Health and Social Services protesting safety issues at the state agency's building on 16th Avenue in Yakima.

They spent their lunch hour holding signs and chanting different phrases about the importance of safety outside of the building.

It was Halloween so some picketers were in costume.

"Of course we want to wear fun stuff, yet we still have important work to do and we want to make sure we are safe to do it," says DSHS employee Gayle Chamberlain-Smith.

Employees tried to tie the holiday in with the protest; calling it "Trick or Treat for Respect."

They have several safety concerns with where they work, but the protest was sparked by a bomb threat two weeks ago.

No one was told about it and there were no evacuations.

"Every situation we've had in the past, we evacuate the building," says DSHS employee Tanya Baze, "and state policy says that we evacuate the building until we find out that it's safe."

Employees are also concerned with other lingering issues; ventilation in the building and crossing 16th Avenue.

A DSHS administrator says management takes these concerns seriously. 

Sylvia Flores, Director of Child Support Services, says they are working with the city to get a traffic signal put in on 16th Ave. 

Regarding the bomb threat, she says it was called it late to DSHS because the threat was made to the Yakima County Jail.

She says they were told to wait for a a second phone call to confirm it. 

"There was no secondary phone call. Nothing out of the ordinary," says Flores.

But Flores says the governor was actually supposed to visit the building on that day, but decided not to after the threat was called in.

She says they have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow to discuss what they can do better.

It's something they do after every threat.