UCATS Pandemic Update 10
August 18, 2020
As many of us return to onsite work for some, or all, of our weekly schedules, a debate is raging in the news media about the wisdom of reopening schools/colleges for in-person classes. Unfortunately, the decision to open or close NYU is not ours to make, so we can only wait and see. For reasons known only to NYU senior management they made their reopening plans in secret without input from any campus unions or faculty/student groups. We are reporting issues to NYU management as we hear from you and they have responded.
For many weeks now the UCATS Executive Council has been working with leaders of the other NYU unions and faculty/student groups on a JOINT RESPONSE to NYU’s reopening plan. UCATS has signed on and I encourage you to sign as an individual which you can do HERE.
NYU is trying to institute multiple layers of health and safety protocols including lowering density on campus, mandatory testing, daily health surveys, mandatory face masks and social distancing, reconfiguration of workspaces and more. Anyone in a high-risk category, should reach out to info@ucats3882 to discuss the OEO process of requesting accommodations. Requests for accommodations for anything other than being in a high-risk health category should be directed to your HR person.
As things unfold it’s important to remember that all the benefits of the UCATS Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that we negotiated in 2017 continue to be available to you.
This includes a 2.5% raise effective the first full pay period of September. If you haven’t heard, NYU has decided that employees not covered by a CBA will not be receiving a raise this year; some Deans and senior faculty have even volunteered pay cuts.
Childcare subsidy applications for the 2021 calendar year will be sent out next week (8/24) to your NYU Home account email announcing the application period (8/24 – 9/7) and will include a link to the online application. The Childcare Subsidy fund for 2021 is $170,000, plus any unclaimed funds from this year. Your application MUST be received by 9/7.
Lastly, there has never been a better time than now to reflect on the value of good health insurance. Almost 100% of UCATS members are enrolled in the United Health Care Choice Plus plan. Whenever we meet with NYU’s Benefits VP she always sings the praises of the high deductible plan – but she refers to the UHC Choice Plus plan as “the rich plan.” When NYU shared with us that almost 100% of you are enrolled in the UHC Choice Plus plan I was so proud to know that UCATS members know which plan is the rich plan!
UCATS Pandemic Update 9
July 17, 2020
This week, Deans and department heads have started sharing Fall Semester reopening plans with administrators and staff. We expect this process to pick up speed next week. Your shop stewards have been sharing the plans with the UCATS Executive Council. Our monthly meetings have continued via Zoom since April.
Returning to campus in these unprecedented circumstances is fraught with concerns/anxiety for many and no plan from the top will fully address the issues specific to every worksite. What we’ve seen so far appears to be reasonable and, for many, entails a continuance of telework. If you need minor accommodations to put your mind at ease when you are directed to return to work, you should request that from your supervisor. If you need accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Families and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you should call the UCATS office for guidance (646-602-1485).
For our members who were deemed “essential” and have been working on campus since the switch to remote instruction/telework, the grievance we filed for hazard pay is moving forward. It’s a slow and frustrating process, but you haven’t been forgotten and we’re doing our best.
The November election is just around the corner and I spent the last 3 days at the Endorsements Conference of our state federation, New York State United Teachers via Zoom. Lets all remember that what we are experiencing from the pandemic is as much political as it is medical. Consequently, while UCATS does not endorse candidates for public office I am sharing the list of NYSUT’s Endorsed Candidates for your consideration. Each endorsed candidate has been vetted for their commitment to public education, legislation important to union members, and science-based public health policy. NYSUT endorsements are for statewide races only. Our national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, will endorse Joe Biden at the AFT convention July 28-30.
UCATS Pandemic Update 8
June 1, 2020
The tragic killing of another black man in police custody last week, George Floyd, is heartbreaking and maddening. Thanks to all of you who made time to peacefully protest or have a difficult conversation with your children.
We can do better and we must do more:
1. Register to vote, I trust that I do not need to explain the importance of this.
2. Request an absentee ballot. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are encouraging all New Yorkers to vote early by absentee ballot so you do not have to risk your health on election day by going to a polling site in person. You should have received an application for an absentee ballot from the Board of Elections for the Democratic primary in June (assuming you are a registered Democrat). Everyone will have to request an absentee ballot again for the general election in November. You can register to vote and request an absentee ballot on the link above.
3. Take the Census and remind your family and friends to do the same. Why do New York tax payers send more money to Washington than we get back? Because New Yorkers were undercounted in the last census. And where do your tax dollars go when they don’t come back to New York? They go to states like Kentucky, represented by Senator Mitch McConnell. The most important benefit of taking the census is getting federal money to fund public education. Even if you don’t have children of your own, do it for your nieces/nephews/grandkids, do it for your neighbors children and do it for your community.
4. DON’T spend your federal stimulus payment on Amazon. DO spend it in your community when shops and services reopen. Jeff Bezos is making money hand-over-fist in this pandemic, while he mistreats/underpays his employees and gives nothing back to the communities in which Amazon operates. This is the man who just last year wanted $3 Billion in tax incentives to take over Queens.
5. Share this email with your coworkers. Currently, only 60% of UCATS members (800) are signed up to receive our email and only 60% of them (480) read these emails. That will increase with a little encouragement from a trusted colleague.
While it may seem quiet for you as an individual member, the UCATS leadership team continues to work on your behalf.
Last Tuesday I participated in a Zoom meeting with the NYSUT Higher Education Policy Council where I learned from local presidents throughout the state how their colleges/universities are responding to the crisis (not well).
Last Friday I participated in a Zoom meeting with NYU faculty from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), leaders of Local 7902 (GSOC and NYU Adjunct Faculty) and members of the NYU Contract Faculty Organizing Committee, to discuss a coordinated response to NYU’s reopening plan and austerity measures that may be imposed. To date, NYU has not announced a reopening plan or any draconian austerity measures, but whatever they are planning they are doing it behind closed doors without input from any campus unions or employee constituency groups. They will have to announce something soon, and lacking our input, we will consider whatever they announce to be a rough draft.
The UCATS Executive Council members have continued our monthly meetings via Zoom on the 2nd Monday of each month.
UCATS Pandemic Update 7
May 5, 2020
Today NYU Executive VP for Employee Relations, Sabrina Ellis, announced that remote working will continue through the summer; no mention of furloughs or layoffs. That’s good news.
Ellis stressed, however, that employees should use their vacation time this summer. While it may seem pointless to take vacation while working remotely and during a summer when travel is unlikely, the point Ellis made is that the vacation carryover rules will remain unchanged. Those rules are articulated on page 20 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
To be clear, if you miss the deadlines for using vacation carryover, you will lose those days. During normal times this happens only occasionally, but when it has happened, NYU has not made exceptions.
Furthermore, supervisors can deny vacation requests – even if it means you will lose vacation days – if too many of your coworkers request the same days you are requesting or if operational needs demand your presence.
So here’s the bottom line: no one can require you to take vacation days this summer, but if 1,350 UCATS members all believe they can schedule 2-4 weeks of vacation in August, when hopefully, NYU calls everyone back to get ready to reopen in September, many vacation requests will be denied; and, if 1,350 UCATS members carry over most or all of their vacation days into the next academic year, it is up to you to be diligent about scheduling those days throughout the year to avoid missing the deadlines by which you will lose days.
If it is imperative that you take vacation time in August, I strongly suggest you schedule those days now.
UCATS Pandemic Update 6
April 27, 2020
Today we all received an email from NYU President Andrew Hamilton which mentioned the dreaded words Layoff and Furlough. I believe some context is in order. Here’s the backstory:
NYU got some very bad press last week about how they are treating resident doctors at NYU Langone. That was followed by an opinion piece in the Washington Square News on the same subject, which has since been withdrawn after a blizzard of blistering letters to the editor attacking the writer, all from NYU Langone big shots; none from resident doctors.
Since NYU moved to online learning and telework, NYU students have made numerous demands for refunds and other compensation which President Hamilton described in some detail. I will not dispute his numbers but he only articulated the expense side of the issues. He did not mention the $25.6 Million NYU will receive from the CARES Act or the FEMA reimbursements for expenses related to Covid 19. Still unknown is how much NYU will receive from subsequent stimulus legislation, but it’s coming, so the entire education industry, NYU included, is making the most dire projections possible to get the most out of Congress. To be fair, NYU’s money is going out the door right now and government stimulus is only on the way.
While layoffs/furloughs may be in our future, worrying about them now will only keep you awake at night. For the moment, NYU has not said anything to us about their intentions in that regard and I don’t think even they know right now.
I believe President Hamilton, or more likely, NYU Public Relations, felt it was time to say, “enough” to students and their advocates in the NYU community and that they should get on board with austerity. I think most of the NYU community gets that – but those who get it aren’t writing editorials.
UCATS Pandemic Update 5
April 14, 2020
I want to update you on the work UCATS is doing on your behalf and where things stand as we approach our 5th week of working from home:
1. NYU continues to pay everyone regardless of whether or not your job lends itself to working from home. We are in regular communication with NYU and they have not notified us of any changes to that so far.
2. The Dept. of Labor has released a list of how much money each university/college will be getting from the CARES Act, in which $14 Billion has been earmarked for education. NYU will be getting $25.6 million, of which $12.8 million is to be allocated for Emergency Financial Aid Grants for Students. This puts NYU in the top 10% of aid recipients. That money is in addition to Covid 19 related expenses which will be reimbursed to NYU by FEMA as a consequence of New York State being designated a national disaster.
3. There is an excellent article in today’s New York Times detailing the challenges that universities/colleges are currently facing, HOWEVER, tucked in the details is the factoid that college presidents are lobbying Congress for an additional $46.6 BILLION of aid in the next stimulus bill so, for the moment, it behooves them to paint the most dire picture for the near future.
4. NYU has announced the following in response to the financial challenges they are facing:
a. Both sessions of the summer semester will be taught online;
b. They expect to return to on-campus education in the fall; but as Dr. Fauci has said, the virus will drive those decisions;
c. As of April 6, there is a hiring freeze in effect. When we return to work there will be no overtime, and expense reimbursements will be severely restricted. This does not mean that you can be asked to work for free, or “off the clock.” While we should all endeavor to give NYU a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, if NYU’s refusal to fill a vacancy results in a workload that can’t be completed in a 7-hour day, it is still your manager’s job to figure out how to resolve that. They can reconsider deadlines, adjust priorities and/or, if overtime cannot be avoided on a given day, it is their option to give you comp time in the same week that overtime is worked. As for the hiring freeze, there has been a hiring freeze in effect since the stock market crash of 1987 (I’ve been here that long); there were hiring freezes implemented after global financial crises in 1993, 2001, and 2008; none of them were ever officially lifted. When NYU returns to normal operations, their hiring freeze will bump in to the reality of needing to get work done and it will evaporate. They won’t make a formal announcement that it is over, they will just start filling positions; but if you’ve been expecting a vacant position to be filled in your area to provide some workload relief, it won’t be happening soon.
5. On Monday, April 13, the UCATS leadership team met via Zoom, when we discussed the information I am sharing with you here.
I understand that we would all like a date certain when things will return to normal but no one knows that yet. .
Please continue to send your questions/concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UCATS Pandemic Update 4
March 25, 2020
Today is the 109th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. One hundred and forty-six mostly immigrant women lost their lives in the fire because the greedy owners had locked the fire exits to “prevent theft”. The magnitude of the loss of life that day caught the attention of the public and the workplace safety movement was born. Prior to the Triangle Fire, workplace injury and death was just a fact of life for working Americans. The bosses made the decisions and if they decided to lock fire exits, have flammable substances all around, and not even think about PPE, your only choice as a worker was to earn your living someplace else.
Normally, we would be commemorating this event by gathering outside NYU’s Brown Building on Washington Place and Greene Street where the tragedy occurred, but nothing is normal today.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in 109 years. Governor Cuomo has mandated teleworking for everyone’s safety and to prevent any employer from putting profit over people. To their credit, NYU President Hamilton and his team, acted responsibly before the governor’s order. To our credit, they were surely motivated by the expectation of a phone call from UCATS if they didn’t act responsibly!
Yesterday, UCATS organizer Linda Wambaugh and I had a Zoom meeting with NYU’s senior HR team to check in, review how we think the teleworking is going for members, and to discuss a few bumps in the road that members have reported to us. Our expectation is that this will be a weekly meeting until we return to working on premises. UCATS continues to be here for you by phone and by email throughout this crisis.
When we were negotiating our contract in 2017 our message to NYU was that UCATS members deserve a great contract because we provide outstanding educational services to students, faculty, and administrators. Today, all of you are driving that message home by doing your part to keep NYU up and running, virtually, until this public health crisis passes.
UCATS Pandemic Update 3
March 20, 2020
Taking action is a great antidote to fear and sadness in difficult times. Here are some things you can do at home on your computer or phone:
1. Take the 2020 Census. It is essential that every New Yorker be counted (and NJ, PA, CT too!). An accurate Census ensures our representation in Congress and federal funding for public schools and Medicaid. There are no citizenship questions on the form. Do it now!
2. Write your members of Congress to pass important legislation that will help laid off workers, not big corporations. The easiest way to get started is to send letters prepared by our national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers. You can edit the letters to your taste or send them as written. To get started, sign up on the
AFT Action Network webpage.
UCATS Pandemic Update 2
March 17, 2020
Today NYU President Hamilton announced the closing of NYU dorms and that online classes and teleworking will continue through the end of the semester. With that announcement it appears, for the time being, that NYU remains committed to all of their employees through the end of the semester. What happens after the end of the semester is anyone’s guess, but today’s announcement is a good sign. We have had no communication from NYU that anyone’s job is at risk.
If you should find yourself experiencing symptoms, here are some resources you should know about:
Virtual visits with NYU Langone or United Healthcare
NYU Langone virtual urgent care (PDF)
United Healthcare virtual visits
Co-pays will be waived for virtual visits through network providers who deliver virtual care, such as live video conferencing, through June 4, 2020. Virtual visits were made for times like these – when you need a doctor but shouldn’t go out.
UCATS Pandemic Update
March 12, 2020
- UCATS has been (for 3 weeks now) and continues to be in discussions with NYU regarding COVID-19 and the issues and impacts for UCATS members.
- NYU has been and continues to follow the recommendations of the CDC and state and local health authorities.
- UCATS has requested that UCATS members be able to work remotely, if possible. Clearly not all UCATS members have duties that can be performed remotely. Telecommuting for UCATS members is something that NYU is considering, where possible, given the current state of affairs. This is most likely if NYU decides to shut down the campus. It appears the telecommuting option may be happening now in at least one area (the Law School). We now recommend people ask their supervisor to see if they can get approval. Supervisors and NYU do not have to agree to this in any or every situation.
- If you are using your work phone for the Multi-factor Authorization when logging in to NYU Home, you will have to go the the NYU START PAGE and register your cell phone to work from home.
- If anyone is high-risk under the CDC guidelines, they can contact the NYU Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) to request reasonable accommodations given the situation. That could include requests for an adjusted work schedule or to work remotely. if not, they can go to the OEO. Medical verification will be required.
- NYU would like to stay open to continue to provide work and pay for all employees as well as to continue their educational, research and operational functions.
- Even if NYU shuts down, some UCATS members will be deemed “essential” personnel and will still be required to come to work; they will receive the time and one half pay we were able to negotiate into our Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011.
- People need to understand that NYU (and no employer) is obligated to pay employees who are not working but one of our priorities is to ensure that all UCATS members continue to be paid even in the event of a shut-down. However, there can be no guarantee that NYU would pay people who aren’t working indefinitely.
- Carebridge Life Resources, the union-negotiated Employee Assistance Program, is available 24/7/365 to assist with stress, anxiety and other issues you may be experiencing. http://www.nyu.edu/employees/work-life/employee-assistanceprogram.html
- USEFUL LINKS
NYU Coronavirus Information and Resources
NYU Tech Guide to Teleworking
NYU Coronavirus Information for Employees
March 4, 2020
UCATS is engaged in conversation with NYU about their Pandemic Plan. Presently, NYU has made no commitments about what will happen in the event that they must shut down a building, a college/administrative unit, or the entire university. They have stated that there will be no pay check distribution or check cashing services during a shutdown so if you are not enrolled in Direct Deposit you should do so right now.
Our national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, has compiled an extensive amount of information about the coronavirus which you can access HERE, and they have also prepared a bulletin specifically for Higher Ed faculty/staff.
Our conversations with NYU are ongoing and we will update this page as things develop.