UCWLA Covid-19 Statement

United Campus Workers of Louisiana (UCWLA) is concerned about the health and safety of our members, their colleagues, and the students and public they serve. Our goal is to ensure that our membership---your employees---receive comprehensive safety and prevention measures in an environment that encourages them to engage in open and free communication without fear of reprisal or negative impacts on pay, paid leave, or continued employment. To that end, in this letter we outline key issues with Louisiana State University’s response herein, and outline important steps for the university to rectify its oversight in providing a safe and ethical workplace response to an epidemic.

UCWLA supports the actions taken so far by LSU to reduce exposure rates and aid in the containment of the virus, but these steps do not fully protect the most economically and medically vulnerable members of our community. Many LSU employees are working in peril and under duress. While certain faculty, graduate students, and staff members will be able to work from home, others, some of whom are high risk, will not have that option. Additionally, 48 out of 64 parishes in Louisiana have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, and Louisiana has the fastest spread of the virus in any state or country in the world.  All K-12 public schools have closed, leaving LSU employees who must still report to work without child-care and few options except to take personal leave. Essential staff who are immunocompromised without enough leave will be forced to come to campus, and this creates a health risk for valued members of Louisiana’s workforce and community.

These situations increase the exposure rate and put our communities across the state at risk. Workers should not have to choose between their livelihoods and their safety. As such, UCWLA urges the LSU Board of Supervisors to give its institutions the permission and resources to act in the best interest of its employees’ physical and economic well-being by implementing the following:

  • Enact a firing freeze--that is, retain and/or renew contracts for all current LSU employees 
  • Guarantee continued pay for all non-essential employees at current wages (including number of hours per week for hourly employees and student workers) for the duration of the crisis
  • Double wages for essential employees—because they are risking their lives just by coming to work—with the option to use emergency paid leave
  • Ensure that no employee loses earned sick or paid leave as a result of shutdown, self-quarantine, or exposure to COVID-19
  • Restore earned sick leave to all those employees who have been required to use their earned sick leave so far (such as groundskeepers)
  • Provide free testing and treatment for all LSU employees and graduate students who may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • Provide personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for all employees who cannot work remotely
  • Guarantee tenure clock extensions to all tenure track faculty
  • Extend funding eligibility and time to completion for all current graduate students by one year due to delays to research and writing
  • Provide prorated refunds for all relevant fees--including and especially parking--to all employees, graduate students, and undergraduate students

This is a pandemic, and Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a public health state of emergency. UCWLA knows that LSU leadership is capable of increasing safety for its employees, students, and their communities.Together we can reduce transmission rates so that Louisiana’s healthcare system can effectively mitigate this crisis. During this time of uncertainty and threat to our health and stability, we need to stand in solidarity with one another. Our union is committed to a just and equitable workplace and looks forward to working together for the common good.

Sincerely,
United Campus Workers of Louisiana
Communication Workers of America-Local 3465

This was sent to the LSU Board of supervisors March 26th