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Karly Safar
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United Campus Workers

March 20, 2020


United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s Higher Education Union, is concerned with the health and safety of our members, their colleagues, and the students and public they serve during the developing COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to ensure campuses provide the most comprehensive safety and prevention measures, and prioritize fairness and equity for campus employees via open and free communication without fear of reprisal or negative impacts on pay, paid leave or continued employment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, we must ensure that all campus workers -- tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, full-time and part-time staff, graduate workers, student workers, and contract workers -- are considered so that the most vulnerable do not bear the brunt of the crisis. UCW supports university actions taken so far to reduce exposure rates and aid in the containment of the virus, but we are concerned that these steps do not fully protect the most economically and physically vulnerable members of our community. While certain faculty, graduate students, and staff members will be able to work from home, others do not have that option. Additionally, with school districts across the state closing, employees who do not have access to child-care are left with few options but to take personal leave, if it is available. Similarly, staff who are immunocompromised but lack leave time will be forced to come to campus.

Workers should not have to choose between their livelihoods and their safety. As such, UCW urges campus administrations to act in the best interest of its employees’ medical and economic well-being by implementing the following:

  1. As soon as possible, hold a virtual open meeting with campus workers to respond to questions and concerns from frontline workers.

  2. Allow all employees to work from home or remotely; if employees are unable to telecommute, provide them with administrative leave with full pay.

  3. If any essential personnel are required to remain on campus, implement safety protocols, such as: providing adequate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies; closing buildings to the public; and implementing split shifts.

  4. Guarantee full pay for all employees, regardless of classification and status; provide hazard pay to any employee required to remain on campus.

  5. Ensure that no employee loses earned sick or paid leave as a result of shutdown, self-quarantine, or exposure to COVID-19.

  6. Work with contractors to ensure payment, healthcare access, safety, and continued employment for any contracted-out employees, and end contracts with companies that refuse.

  7. Expand health insurance coverage to all campus employees, including part-time, temporary, and graduate workers, and guarantee that all employees’ health insurance policies cover in full the cost of testing for COVID-19 and treatment.

  8. Allow faculty to freeze or delay their tenure clock