In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has resulted in most of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus shutting down, some serious labor and community health concerns have arisen. The Campus Labor Coalition, which is comprised of representatives of the different labor unions on campus, has released the open letter below calling on the University Administration to address these concerns.
Dear Chancellor Robert Jones, Provost Andreas Cangellaris, and University of Illinois Board of Trustees,
The Campus Labor Coalition respects and applauds many of the recent decisions made by the University Administration to keep the community safe and ensure quality education to students in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
However, many of these decisions have resulted in uncertain, unfair, and unsafe working conditions for university employees. With the shared aim of the economic, physical, and mental well-being of university employees in mind, we are asking that the University Administration commit to the following calls for action. These demands are in line with similar calls for action at Harvard University, Washington University, Indiana University, and Purdue University.
- Guarantee nondiscrimination in all policies to be enacted at the University so that no individuals or groups in our community are targeted (e.g. racial profiling), by forms of harmful discrimination that often come with public health emergencies.
- Immediately comply with the now-active Families First COVID-19 Response Act. Doing so will provide immediate economic and risk relief to university employees.
Paid Sick Leave
- Immediately grant paid sick leave to all university employees in accordance with the stipulations of the Families First COVID-19 Response Act. This leave should not count against any accrued unpaid time-off or paid time-off benefits.
- Ensure that employees’ requests for time off are considered with utmost seriousness and entail no form of reprisal or compromise their possibilities for employment with the University in the future.
- Provide options for reduced workloads for those employees now facing increased child and family care needs, in accordance with the stipulations of the Families First COVID-19 Response Act.
- Immediately provide Hazard Pay–either in the form of pay raises or weekly sums–to those still working on campus.
- Provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all employees still working on campus.
- Provide adequate equipment and resources to complete work under the work conditions mandated by the University and the State in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including: access to computers, software, high-speed internet connections, appropriate resources online, and other materials essential to workers’ job functions
- Communicate clearly and in a timely manner (a minimum of thirty days’ notice) any intent to layoff university employees.
- Provide free summer housing options, i.e. at Orchard Downs, for international and other graduate employees who cannot return home for the foreseeable future and may not have legal employment options over the summer break.
- Provide free housing for anyone displaced from housing because of reductions or loss in employment with the University, for the duration of the pandemic.
- Provide free testing for coronavirus to all University employees regardless of insurance status.
- Waive fees for healthcare, dental care, and vision care to all employees through the summer period, including access to quality medical care and specialized/medical referrals for all regardless of the ability to pay. Ensure healthcare, dental care, and vision care for all employees.
- Revoke immediately the recent decision to increase the costs of healthcare premiums for students in the 2020-2021 Academic Year.
- Ensure that international employees are able to maintain their visa status as courses transition online and hourly work is reduced, and provide legal support for employees who face visa status changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.