UAW 4121

This email contains important information about ongoing union-wide efforts to ensure healthy and safe working conditions. It also contains guidance for getting support enforcing your rights and establishing remote work in the immediate term. To win strong, university-wide changes, it’s critical we build power through collective action and solidarity. You can take a minute now to help by signing on to this open letter

On Monday 1/3/22, the UW administration communicated that it plans to resume in-person instruction on 1/10/22. Given the current status of pandemic — with case counts rising, high transmissibility of the omicron variant, and difficulties accessing testing & booster shots — many members have expressed concerns about maintaining healthy and safe working conditions, both in instructional and research contexts. Please note that we have strong protections in both the ASE and Postdoc contracts that clearly state we cannot be required to work in conditions that pose an imminent threat to health and safety.

Through thousands of organizing conversations in the past year, members have shared a wide variety of needs and work experiences. While remote work may not be the right answer for every ASE and Postdoc, for many — including many who are experiencing disproportionate vulnerabilities during the pandemic — having the option to work remotely is an important measure for upholding health and safety. In addition, whether working remotely or in-person, every ASE and Postdoc has a right to safe conditions.

In order to ensure every ASE’s and Postdoc’s rights are upheld, the Contract Enforcement Working Group has filed union-wide grievances calling for UW Admin to immediately ensure healthy and safe working conditions, including by:

  • Ensuring no ASE or Postdoc is required to work in conditions that pose an imminent threat to health and safety;
  • Ensuring ASEs and Postdocs who wish to work remotely are able to do so;
  • Ensuring ASEs and Postdocs who do any part of their work in-person receive N95, KN95, or equivalent personal protective equipment;
  • In all other ways ensuring ASE and Postdoc working conditions are healthy and safe.

While these grievances are an important source of leverage, they won’t be enough on their own to secure strong measures. As always, our collective ability to win strong, fast, university-wide changes depends on members from across UW getting involved to build widespread pressure, solidarity, and support networks. There are a few things you can do this week to help:

  1. Sign on in support of the grievances and to demand that every ASE’s and Postdoc’s rights for healthy and safe working conditions are upheld: Even if you aren’t concerned about your own working conditions, the more people who sign on, the better we’re collectively able to protect the rights of everyone — especially those who are most vulnerable.
  2. Join upcoming Return to Campus workgroup meetings: These are a great place to get connected with members from across UW who have been organizing around COVID-related issues since last summer. We’ll be discussing organizing and enforcement plans for the coming weeks. Join to get plugged in to ways you can support members in your department, build union-wide power and collective action, and ensure every ASE and Postdoc has the support they need. More info and RSVP here.
  3. Join the Membership Meeting on Thurs 1/13 at 5pm: This month’s membership meeting will also have significant time dedicated to open membership discussion of these issues, and how we can most effectively organize to build power and support one another. More information will follow in an email tomorrow about how to RSVP and join that meeting.
  4. Request remote work ASAP: With the 1/10 deadline to return in-person fast approaching, if you feel unsafe returning to in-person work and have not already had remote work approved, contact your supervisor as soon as possible (ideally before 1/7) to request remote work. It’s important to make and document this request ASAP. Below you’ll find more important guidance on this, and if you have any questions or would like additional support, contact the Contract Enforcement Working Group
    1. Here are template emails you can use. Some important notes:
      1. Be sure to CC Contract Enforcement <> to ensure you get the support you need — you aren’t in this alone.
      2. If you’ve done work in your current position remotely before (e.g., earlier in the pandemic), be sure to include that information.
      3. If you need to contact your supervisor in a way other than email (e.g., phone, zoom, in-person), be sure to document the communication  (e.g., a calendar event, follow-up email, a dated note to yourself).
      4. Your supervisor may ask you to complete a telework agreement. If you have any questions about this, contact Contract Enforcement for support.
    2. If your supervisor doesn’t approve your request quickly, follow up in writing and reiterate that it would be unsafe/unhealthy for you to work in-person. If you’ve done your work remotely before, reiterate that as well.
    3. If after communicating all of the above, you still haven’t had your request approved and in-person work poses an imminent threat to your health and safety, contact Contract Enforcement immediately. Your Union will support you if you are forced to make the decision not to work in-person due to imminent threats to your health and safety. Be sure to communicate your safety concerns and request for remote work and/or any other safety precautions to UW (and Contract Enforcement) before making the decision not to work in-person.
    4. If you qualify, you may also request remote work (or other safety measures) as an accommodation. To request an ADA accommodation, you should contact the Disability Services Office (DSO). If you have any questions, issues, or would like support with this, contact Contract Enforcement. (Note: DSO is the office that processes accommodations for employment specifically. To secure an accommodation related to your status as a student, you should reach out to the Disability Resources for Students (DRS)).

In Solidarity,
Douglas Avella-Castro
Julia Ball
Nicholas Bolten
Tucker Burgin
Amanda Clouser
Kate Conroy
Max Friedfeld
Vern Harner
Colleen Hoffman
Levin Kim
Brianne King
Avi Matarasso
Erin Morgan
Emily Myers
Amal Nanavati
Anzela Niraula
Nayon Park
Marissa Parker
Anastasia Schaadhardt
Solmaz Shakerifard
Sam Sumpter
Samantha Thompson
Braeden Van Deynze
Yuying Xie
Momona Yamagami
Christian Zimmermann