07/14/20 Coalition of Unions DEMANDS FOR APPROPRIATE POLICIES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC


Dear Wayne State University Board of Governors and President Wilson,

Please find attached [i.e. below] a letter written and co-signed by 12 Unions and students, including the Student Senate, regarding campus public health during Covid-19.

Faculty, academic staff and students join with building trades and grounds workers, engineers, dining workers, custodians, clerical staff and police officers to make the following requests during the Covid-19 pandemic: guaranteed paid leave, dropping disciplinary charges for absences related to Covid-19, continuing flexible work arrangements, training for supervisors in administering leave during Covid-19, and free rapid testing on campus.

Additionally, we respectfully invite members of the Board of Governors and the Administration to meet with the Coalition of Unions regarding our concerns related to Covid-19.

Sincerely,Tom Anderson, ChairCoalition of Unions at WSU

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Wayne State University Leave Time During the Covid-19 Pandemic

DEMANDS FOR APPROPRIATE POLICIES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

BY THE COALITION OF UNIONS & STUDENTS at WSU

July 14, 2020


Building trades and grounds workers, engineers, dining workers, custodians, clerical staff and police officers are among the Wayne State workers who have returned to work—or who have remained on campus—since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For everyone’s safety, it is critical that anyone who could possibly carry the deadly coronavirus not feel compelled to come to campus. The Wayne State University guidelines rightly instruct employees that, “If you have symptoms or have been exposed, stay home.”

It is, therefore, imperative to employee and public safety that the Wayne State University Administration provide appropriate leave policies, clearly articulated to all levels of management, that encourage, not discourage, possible carriers of the disease from coming to campus, particularly if they exhibit Covid-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who exhibits Covid-19 symptoms. Policies that do not provide adequate paid leave time put employees in an impossible position of choosing between risking their livelihoods or risking public safety.

United in our concern for the Wayne State University community, the Coalition of Unions at WSU requests the following policies be implemented immediately across WSU:

1. PAID LEAVE

All workers, both on and off campus, should receive “no questions asked” paid leave if they have been exposed to Covid-19, exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, or are caring for a family member with Covid-19 symptoms. This goes into effect retroactively to cover workers who have already given up vacation and/or accrued days to cover Covid-19 related absences.

2. DROP DISCIPLINARY CHARGES

Disciplinary measures against employees who report Covid-19 related absences are suspended, and discipline for past Covid-19 related absences is removed.

3. FLEXIBLE WORK

Flexible work-from-home arrangements should continue to be provided. Administration must show sufficient justification that an employee's presence on campus is essential before requiring them to return in person. Special consideration is given to those caring for children, as well as those caring for other family members.

4. TRAIN SUPERVISORS

All supervisors receive up-to-date training on all relevant sick leave policies.

5. FREE RAPID TESTING ON CAMPUS

Provide free rapid testing to identify Covid-19 as quickly as possible when it arrives on campus. Rapid tests would allow employees to either return to work or quarantine immediately, rather than waiting up to two weeks for results.

6. INVITATION TO MEET

Members of the Administration and the Board of Governors are invited to meet with the Coalition of Unions to hear recommendations from those who have been working and maintaining buildings on campus during the pandemic.

Elaboration on the above points:

1. PAID LEAVE

Although the Administration has implemented a number of Covid-19 related enhancements augmenting established and contractual sick leave policies, they do not cover all situations and all people sufficiently. The WSU Shared Sick/Illness Time Pool provides a maximum of 14 days of paid leave and is dependent on others donating their time. Employees in skilled trades are ineligible, since they do not have agreements that provide accrued sick time, which is one of the requirements. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides only two (2) weeks of Emergency Paid Leave. There is a provision for another 10 weeks through an expansion of FMLA, but this is limited to caring for a child under the age of 18. It does not include caring for a spouse, parent, and other family members. The federal benefits in FFCRA end in December 2020.

A guaranteed University-wide Covid-19 paid leave policy could be accomplished through expanding coverage and supplementing the WSU Shared Sick/Illness Time Pool with sufficient funding to cover all employees absent from work for Covid-19 related reasons.

2. DROP DISCIPLINARY CHARGES

Employees who report Covid-19-related absences should be believed, not threatened. Employment policies that discipline and terminate employees who accumulate more than a limited number of absences—even when caused by Covid-19 related situations—put the entire WSU community at risk. There should be no disincentive to staying home when sick with or when exposed to Covid-19.

3. FLEXIBLE WORK

With increased caretaking demands due to closures of child care centers, school buildings, and care services for family members because of the pandemic, many employees have relied on WSU’s Flexible Work Arrangement if eligible and, where available, paid family leave policies to maintain their employment. A number of employees required to come to campus struggle with managing caregiving during this time. Retaining these experienced and valuable employees is essential to the University’s continued success.

4. TRAIN SUPERVISORS

We have found that a number of frontline administrators are unaware of or not properly administering available options for paid leave. This creates both unnecessary stress for employees and risk to the Wayne State community. Some workers have been told to use vacation days when caring for others with Covid-19. Others with mild symptoms who were waiting on Covid-19 test results lost time from their regular sick day bank when this should have been covered by Federal Paid Emergency Leave. As more and more Wayne State employees return to work, this problem will intensify.

5. FREE RAPID TESTING ON CAMPUS

It is critical for workers returning to campus to have access to free Covid-19 testing. We support the efforts by the Public Health Subcommittee of the WSU Restart Committee to provide periodic testing and contact tracing for individuals residing on campus. We request that the same periodic testing and contact tracing be extended to all campus workers. When a case of Covid-19 is identified, we demand that a properly protected and equipped custodial crew sanitize all spaces.

6. INVITATION TO MEET

The Coalition of Unions has formed a Health and Safety Working Group because we know that not all campus workers are represented on the university restart committees. The restart committees are, for the most part, led by administrators. We extend an open invitation to members of the administration and the Board of Governors to meet with the Coalition of Unions to hear directly from Wayne State workers from across campus.

Respectfully submitted by the Coalition of Unions and students at Wayne State:

AFSCME Local 1497, Custodial Staff

AAUP-AFT Local 6075, Faculty & Academic Staff

Graduate Employees Organizing Committee, GEOC AFT Local 6123

IBEW Local 58

IUOE Local 325, Operating Engineers

Teamsters Local 337, Dining Staff

UniteHere! Local 24, Custodial Staff

UAW Local 1979 Professional & Administrative Staff (P&A)

UAW Local 2071 Staff Association

UPTF AFT Local 477, Part-Time Faculty

WSU Police Officers Association

WSU Skilled Trades

WSU Student Senate

WSU Young Democratic Socialists of America