On Monday, August 23, and Wednesday, August 25, LCCEA and LCCEF met with Michael Blade, who represents the College in bargaining COVID working conditions for the 2021/2022 school year. Following the Wednesday meeting, LCCEA sent the following statement to their members:
LCC Faculty Colleagues, Lane County Emergency Advisory As you are likely aware, COVID cases are surging in Lane County and throughout Oregon. Given the dearth of available ICU beds, Lane County passed an emergency advisory, which includes recommendations as follows. - Unvaccinated adults should stay home, not go in public, and get vaccinated; - Employers should encourage remote work; - In addition to indoor masking regardless of vaccine status, all should wear masks outdoors whenever 6’ distance is not reliably possible (also mandated by Governor Brown to take effect this Friday); and - Individuals should avoid activities that may cause injury due to lack of hospital capacity, among others. See the full Emergency Advisory Guidelines. Vaccine Implementation The College has provided more information about the implementation of the vaccine “requirement.” In addition to concerns that no proof of vaccination status is required and the option of a philosophical exemption, the Administration has explained that for the approximately 5,000 students who are already registered for Fall, there will be only “soft holds” added to their accounts in Banner. These “soft holds” will not affect student registration for Fall, nor will the holds impact student attendance in-person in Fall. Students will receive reminders that they need to complete the vaccination form, but if they do not do so, they will continue to be enrolled for Fall. “Hard holds” will be implemented at a later date such that students already registered for Fall will not be able to register for Winter until they complete the form. For students not yet registered for Fall, “hard holds” will be added to their accounts so that they cannot register for Fall until they complete the vaccine form. However, these “hard holds” are not yet implemented, so a new student registering today will have only a “soft hold” as described above. In addition, while other institutions have developed processes for verifying medical and religious exemptions, there are currently no plans for a review, verification, or approval process for medical or religious exemptions requested by LCC employees or students. More on Fall and Bargaining over Safety and Working Conditions Your LCCEA Bargaining Team met with the College again today and, together with LCCEF, advocated for better processes in implementing the vaccine requirement in accordance with the Board of Education vote that the mandate take effect for Fall Term. However, it is clear that the Administration does not intend for the requirement to be implemented in a manner that requires proof of vaccination status nor requires students who attend in Fall to complete and submit the form without affecting their registration status until Winter term. At the same time, the unions’ joint proposal and the College’s proposal are the same in that both require vaccines or approved exemptions by the beginning of Fall. The disconnect between the College’s written proposal in bargaining and the College’s actual plans for the vaccine “requirement” implementation is both surprising and deeply concerning, given the implications for the health and safety of the campus and entire community. In addition, the current MOA in effect for faculty for Summer term requires the College to notify faculty if a student who attends their in-person class tests positive. The LCCEA and LCCEF have jointly proposed that such notice continue in Fall and beyond for in-person exposure to classified or faculty employees, but the College has indicated they do not accept the proposal and wish to make notice only when there is “close contact,” currently defined as less than six feet distance for 15 minutes or more. This means that, for example, a faculty member teaching a class with social distancing in the classroom where a student tests positive would receive no notice. The College has also rejected the LCCEF-LCCEA joint proposal to provide portable HEPA filters for shared offices and classrooms upon request. Ventilation and air filtration are important strategies to mitigate risk of COVID transmission. For instance, see: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2779062 (Thank you, Chemistry faculty.) While many areas on campus are now served by MERV 13 filters, not all spaces and classrooms have windows or efficient airflow from the HVAC systems. The federal government has allocated $27 Million to LCC, specifically to address costs resulting from the pandemic, which can be used for these relatively minor expenses. The College has also proposed that unvaccinated employees and students be subject to periodic testing but cannot commit to paying for the testing at this time. The parties also discussed a mask and social distancing requirement for Fall term. Even though both the College and the LCCEF-LCCEA joint proposal tie safety measures to the most protective public health guidelines, the College had removed language requiring masks and social distancing for Fall. After considerable advocacy on the part of both unions, the College agreed to restore the mask and social distancing requirement specified in the proposal. While the parties' agreement that masks and social distancing be required in Fall represents some small step toward agreement, the number of unresolved issues is significant as are the substantial and direct impacts to not only the health and safety of faculty, but also for the entire campus and broader community. Please stay tuned for more information and joint communications from the LCCEF and LCCEA Action Teams. Your LCCEA Bargaining Team Kelly Collins Adrienne Mitchell Nancy Wood
The College just sent out Revised Current LCC COVID-19 Guidelines that include references to the LCPH Emergency Advisory and the FDA’s recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine (now known as Comirnaty). Because of these changes and their effect on working conditions, EA and EF sent a joint letter to Shane Turner and Michael Blade to request to bargain these new working conditions. We submitted a new request to bargain because both of these changes occurred after we started bargaining. What does this new information mean to us, the classified employees? It means we have the LCPH Emergency Advisory to back us up in bargaining for remote working conditions and staggered/rotating/flexible schedules. This county support is crucial for our front-line employees in facilities and other departments who need the flexibility to adjust their schedules to work when fewer people are on campus.
Although we cannot force the College to pay for mandatory COVID testing for students and employees, we maintain that it is their responsibility to do so as they were the ones who put it into their proposal to EA and EF. They have informed us that they might not have the funds available to test everyone and now want to walk back their proposal. Our unions have pushed back together and let them know this change is not acceptable. The language should stand as proposed by the College.
Our next bargaining session on this topic is Monday, August 30, when we will continue to bargain in solidarity with LCCEA. We will keep you informed of any new developments.