Guest Columnist

Is the University of Iowa encouraging sick instructors to come to work?

An open letter to UI Provost Kevin Kregel and Dean John Keller.

Students walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway and the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (KC McGinnis
Students walk along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway and the Pentacrest in Iowa City on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (KC McGinnis for The Gazette)

UE Local 896 COGS thanks you for informing us and our bargaining unit about an alleged plan for people to call in sick on Wednesday. We want to assure you that UE Local 896 COGS did not plan and will not sanction this event. However, we are glad you are finally engaging with us. Throughout the summer, COGS has attempted to communicate with the administration while being left out of response and planning teams dealing with COVID-19. COGS has gathered information from its membership, worked with community organizations to propose guidelines for a safe campus, and attended a news conference in hopes of working with the administration to improve the dangerous conditions of employment facing our membership.

We are concerned that your letter will coerce workers who might have the coronavirus to come to work while sick for fear of retaliation. As you know, workers may be absent due to illness without loss of pay, not to exceed 13.5 days during an academic year appointment or 18 days during a twelve month appointment. The reopening of campus and residence halls has resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases among university staff and students in a state already suffering from the deaths of more than 1,100 people. Despite this, the University continues to risk exposures and infections by offering in-person classes. The university’s communicated policy has been that anyone who feels unwell should stay home for everyone’s safety. We hope that you are not suggesting employees come to work sick during this dangerous pandemic.

Since you have contacted the bargaining unit members we represent about an issue not endorsed by UE Local 896 COGS, we would like to take this opportunity to engage you about seven issues the COGS membership has endorsed:

• Move classes 100 percent online

• Provide computer/internet/equipment stipend for all TAs, RAs, and faculty members

• Provide child care stipend for all students and workers who need it

• Provide hazard pay for all university employees

• Cancel all student fees

• Fully cover all health care costs for students and workers

• Get cops and ICE off campus

We encourage you to send out an email to our bargaining unit to remind them that if they feel ill, they should stay home until they are symptom-free — for their safety, the safety of their co-workers, and the safety of their students. We look forward to meeting with you regarding our member-endorsed issues.

The UE Local 896 COGS Coordinating Committee includes John Jepsen, President; Derick Delloro, Vice President; Erica Walker, Financial Officer; Kezia Walker-Cecil, Chief Campus Steward; John Tappen, Blue Area Steward; Ashley Dorn, Yellow Area Steward; Michael Davis, Red Area Steward; Eden Maack, Green Area Steward; Inga Popovaite, Bargaining and Grievance at Large; Rachel Maller, Social Chair; Micki Burdick, Unity Chair; Lizzy Handschy, Press and Publicity Chair; Daniel Knipp, Political Action Chair; and Michael Goldberg, Labor Solidarity Chair.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.