Fall 2020 Campaign: #ActFastUVA
Sign the petition here!
If anything has been consistent about the University of Virginia’s latest responses to the global pandemic and anti-Black racism, it is that they are “too little, too late.” Workers, students, and the Charlottesville community have been left in the dark as the University’s administrators stumble through strategies which prioritize talk over action and prestige over lives. Worse, faculty, staff, grad students, and undergrads have been pitted against one another as we struggle to prepare for a chaotic semester ahead.
In some ways, however, Fall 2020 at UVA threatens to be just like any other semester.Workers will be underpaid, students will be exploited, and the greater Charlottesville community will be steamrolled, all in the interests of the University's public reputation and its bottom line. The global pandemic and increasingly visible police brutality and anti-Black racism heighten these pre-existing conditions, but they have not created them from nothing.
The United Campus Workers of Virginia (UCWVA) at UVA wants to help change this. We’re calling for an extraordinary semester, one in which the UVA community comes together to contest the University administration’s strategies of delay and division. We’re calling on students and workers to look after and fight for one another. We're calling on the University to #ActFastUVA, first by immediately shifting to full remote learning for all Fall 2020 instruction to protect UVA's faculty, staff, students, and the greater Charlottesville community.
We demand that the University move to full online instruction before infection rates rise, not after.
We demand that the University use its plentiful resources, including over $3.7 million dollars of of remaning CARES Act money, to ensure that students and staff are justly compensated for subsequent losses of income and housing, and that students who remain in Charlottesville after courses move online are provided with safe and affordable places to stay.
We demand that the University immediately begin making up for lost time and ensure that online teaching is as accessbile and equitable as possible by giving teachers and students the resources they need.
While the University can fairly claim to have been caught off guard in the Spring, no such excuse will be acceptable in the Fall, with the experiences of schools like UNC serving as a grm example of what on-grounds learning will look like once outbreaks begin.
An online semester is the bare minimum for a safer, more equitable University, however. In addition, we demand that the University of Virginia...
Austerity, the idea that we must cut spending and save every cent in order to keep UVA afloat, is absurd. The flagship university of the Commonwealth of Virginia, with ample assets and ways to fund losses in revenue, is essentially too big to fail. Why must workers face furloughs, benefit suspensions, pay cuts, or unemployment when these are just drops in a gigantic financial bucket? When we are the ones facing eviction, incredible medical debt, and the stress of working during a pandemic, shouldn’t we be supported by the wealthy institution that claims to care for us? Shouldn’t we have a say in how decisions affect us, rather than officials who make hundreds of thousands of dollars? To this end, we add and join the calls to…
a) Use the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) to enact a firing freeze (nobody should lose their job during such precarious times) and end the hiring freeze (now is the time to support and invest in workers in our community)
b) Use the SIF to suspend and prevent all budget-saving measures that harm workers, such as furloughs and benefit suspensions (UVA can afford to keep supporting its workers)
c) Open the books. Immediately release liquidity and cash flow models, and make financial decisions transparent and democratic (workers deserve to know how and where UVA spends its money, as well as complete transparency in how the pandemic affects the University's bottom line. Workers must have a voice in how their departments cut and spend their funds)
d) Enact a tuition freeze (we support all students and believe that further raising the tuition during a pandemic and a recession is an undue burden on them and their households)
e) Compensate undergraduates for loss of on-campus pay due to the delayed in-person re-opening (undergraduate workers should be paid regardless of UVA's decisions)
If thousands of students return to grounds to fulfill a haphazard and irresponsible hybrid vision of Fall 2020 instruction, workers will face an extraordinary situation in which they must not only continue to perform their jobs well, but perform them under the pressure of subjecting themselves or their loved ones to illness or death. UCWVA rejects the University's tactic of blaming individual students for so-called “reckless” behavior. We locate the blame squarely on a University administration which has put its own profitability above creating safe living, learning, and working conditions for all. Black students and workers at the University in particular have been confronted with extraordinary police violence and an administration which has prioritized task forces over concrete, redistributive policies. While we know that it is ultimately “we” who keep us safe, UVA must use its institutional powers to further protect its workers and community. Should in-person instruction and on-grounds residency continue, we join calls for the University to...
a) Provide hazard pay for all workers who must work in-person (a risk of injury/illness necessitates an increase in compensation for the value of their labor)
b) Provide free, accessible, and timely COVID-19 testing for all workers (to protect themselves and others)
c) Expand healthcare benefits by reducing premiums, enhancing coverage, and lowering deductibles (nobody should fear seeking treatment and care due to financial barriers)
d) Provide protections and more virtual options for disabled workers, those with a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, and those caring for high risk individuals (no worker should risk their or their loved one’s life at the service of UVA)
e) Enforce whistleblower protections for all workers (workers should feel safe and be protected from retaliation when reporting working conditions that violate established COVID-19 safety standards)
f) Take proactive steps and utilize the full force of UVA’s legal resources to protect international and undocumented workers from further legislative and/or executive attacks (all workers are valued and must be defended, regardless of their country of origin or citizenship status)
g) Written contracts for TAs (Without contracts, TAs are kept subject to ad-hoc department rules without a clear understanding of their rights and duties, normalizing overwork and disruptive last-minute reassignments.
h) Defund and dismantle the University Police Department (UPD threatens the safety of students and workers across grounds. We need investment in other means that enhance the health and welfare of our community.)
As a union, we appreciate and exercise the power of solidarity: the idea that we advocate and fight with and for our friends, for our loved ones, and for those who are total strangers. We do this because the injustice, exploitation, and discrimination we experience is something we can only overcome as a community which cares for and protects each other. Whether you are a professor, a facilities worker, a student, a bus driver, etc. you provide value and are necessary for this university to function. However, the strength of solidarity is not only in numbers or conviction, but also in openness. Our solidarity must be celebrated and displayed for all to see and feel. To this end, we add and join the calls to…
a) Support the goals of YDSA at UVA “Demand a Student and Worker COVID response from UVA” campaign
b) Support the goals of the #6AsksUVA “The Petition for Emergency COVID-19 Support for UVA Graduate Workers” campaign
c) Support the goals of the Black Student Alliance (BSA) “The Reiteration of Historic, Yet Unmet, Demands” campaign
e) Support local organizations and campaigns that seek to protect workers and students at UVA and in Charlottesville
f) Support efforts at other colleges and universities to unionize and protect students and employees; we demand that the University of Virginia's current administration express public support for expanding collective bargaining rights to University employees
g) Support fellow workers in Virginia, the United States, and across the world
~This campaign is a reflection of our values and beliefs as a democratic, member-led union. However, this document is not inclusive of all needs and concerns of the UVA community. It only represents a small portion of our visions for UVA and how we can change our workplace for the benefit of everyone.
If you feel empowered by these demands, if you feel appreciated, if you feel like there’s finally a chance to speak your voice and make a change...join us! Help us make UVA a better place for students, for workers, for you.~