GEO Coronavirus Update 3.18.20

As of now, GEO has suspended all of our normal activity (including, but not limited to, elections, all member meetings, other meetings, and our Spring Party. If you have questions about your SSF grant, email the SSF manager Katsy at katsyris.riveraki001@umb.edu).

Our number one goal right now is to ensure all GA’s and graduate students are safe and receiving the correct information, while making sure there is as minimal disruption to your work as students, teachers, and researchers as possible during this crisis. 

Right now, the university is not closed. Measures have been put in place to increase social distancing and reduce the number of people on campus. Classes have been made virtual and many–but not all–employees have been switched to remote modalities. If you have been deemed essential, or required on-site, email the union (geo@umb.edu). If you do not know, ask your supervisor and email the union (geo@umb.edu).  

It is important to note that we are in DAILY discussions with management and the administration and that new information is coming down the pipe seemingly by the hour. We will be sending as many updates as necessary… but the university’s response so far has lacked both transparency or clarity. We’re doing what we can to speak directly to membership about all of this: it’s the best course for us with management being as difficult as they are. If you haven’t, please fill this survey out so we know your concerns and immediate needs. 

COVID-19: The University’s Plan and our Response
On Thursday, we entered discussions with the university and presented a series of proposals that ensured the public health and safety of the community. These proposals included guaranteeing sick leave for employees who could not work, ensuring employees caring for sick or displaced family members–those quarantining, those at home due to school closures, and more–were not penalized, and plans to minimize exposure to all members of the campus community. You can read the full proposal here. We believe the University’s response to our proposal to be wholly inadequate and irresponsible in its attempt to address this emergency situation. The FAQ issued on Friday left questions unanswered, gaps open, and employees at the mercy of the whim of their supervisors. Some of these gaps include the absence of additional leave-time, the lack of provision of personal protective equipment, and a failure to adequately address the minimization of exposure to the virus. Furthermore, the designation of which employees are required on-site has been left up to that employee’s manager. In a communication from the Provost last week, managers were told to “err by designating more rather than fewer people as ‘required onsite”. The university has not issued proper guidance to researchers and research support. It has not issued proper guidance to staff. It refuses to offer concrete information about what steps it is planning to take.  We ask that everyone show solidarity to the PSU and CSU at this time.  Their unions are working hard, but much of their membership are being given inadequate guidance, leadership, and directives, and many are being deemed as essential or required-on-site. We are asking all members of the UMass community to sign the petition linked below demanding UMass Boston prepare and adequately protect its community and workers. 

Immediate Next Steps
If you have been deemed as required on-site–for any reason–we ask you to take the following steps. Prioritize your and your own family’s health and safety.
If you or anyone in your household is high-risk (60 years or older or suffering from underlying medical conditions), immediately inform HR (Marie.Bowen@umb.edu) and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If your child’s school is closed and you must remain home to care for them, immediately inform HR  (Marie.Bowen@umb.edu) and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If you are asked to do anything that you believe endangers your health or safety, immediately inform your supervisor (by email) in writing, and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If you have been deemed as required on-site or essential, let GEO (geo@umb.edu) know. We want to know why you’re required on site and what you’re being asked to do, make sure you agree with the required on-site designation, and ensure that you are being provided with what you need to stay safe.
If you are being asked to work from home and have any concerns, email GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). And finally, if you are exposed to someone who develops COVID-19, or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, please inform both UHS (Robert.Pomales@umb.edu) and your town’s public health department. This is essential to allow the right steps to protect the general public can be taken. 

It is possible that UMass will shut down, close campus, and suspend operations in the coming days or weeks. We don’t know. But if that happens, or if anything changes, we’ll be in touch with you. Please check your email regularly. Keep in touch with us. 

In Solidarity,
Warren, Chris, Kathy, Drew, Katsy, and the entire GEO

You can email us for any reason at geo@umb.edu or UAW1596@aol.com. If for any reason you wish to reach out to us individually, you can reach Warren at whinckle@gmail.com, Chris at Christopher.Whyna001@umb.edu, Kathy at kmelish@aol.com, Drew at drewbevis@gmail.com, or Katsy at katsyris.riveraki001@umb.edu

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