Sac State unions fight for safety

By Sheri Williams

Unions representing members that include doctors, instructors and support staff are battling Sacramento State to ensure the safety of workers as the pandemic continues. The joint labor council at Sacramento State, which includes the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, California State University Employee Union, Academic Professionals of California, Teamsters Local 2010 and California Faculty Association, has been fighting to keep in place measures the university agreed to last year, but which expired at the end of December. Those protections include a paid leave program for workers to be able to take paid time in order to navigate the new reality of being at home with their children since schools have closed and many daycare centers are unavailable as well.

With the continuing closures, and the extra time required for many parents to help children navigate distance learning, union members have asked that this vital leave program continue. Instead, many parents are finding they have to take unpaid time off in order to help their kids succeed.

Unions at Sac State have been in negotiations to extend these types of programs but have yet to receive a favorable response to these proposals, more than two months into the new year, the joint labor council said in a statement.

“This is not the right way to treat the workers who have placed their health and lives on the line to serve the University, students, faculty, patients, and the community,” it read. “We are done with the campus continuing to function as normal on the backs of our lowest paid, most vulnerable workers.”

The council pointed out that the CSU has received substantial funding in the federal stimulus bills and in the state budget that it can use to fund these critical programs. It is asking that the Covid Paid Leave program be extended to provide an additional 128 Hours in 2021.

The Labor leaders are also asking that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) programs be offered system wide, so colleagues at other institutions are not left behind. Under the $900 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress in December, FFCRA leave is no longer required as of January 1. However, employers may voluntarily provide paid leave through March 31.

The council is also asking for the immediate implementation of the Cal OSHA Emergency Standard which provides that for employees excluded from work for COVID reasons who are otherwise able and available to work, employers must continue to maintain an employee’s earnings, seniority, and all other employee rights and benefits, including the employee’s right to their former job status, as if the employee had not been removed from their job.

“CSU should not require employees to exhaust sick time when excluded from work because of workplace exposure,” the council said.