University Labor Council lists demands in response to UW-Madison’s restart plans

MADISON, Wis. — Even with health and safety changes, the University of Wisconsin-Madison University Labor Council is speaking out against the “Smart Restart” plan, asking that administrators protect campus workers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University Labor Council is a coalition of unions designed with the intention to protect campus workers at UW-Madison. The organization released a statement outlining their demands on Wednesday.

First, the council demands moving all courses online until there are zero new cases of COVID-19 in Dane County for 14 consecutive days.

Second, the council demands the University provide employment and payment continuity for all workers during the pandemic.

Third, the council demands the University reinstate the $15 minimum wage for hourly workers, and extend it to include student workers.

Lastly, the council demands the administration meet with campus labor unions and lobby the state joint committee on employee relations to approve the trade workers’ contract.

Co-President of Teaching Assistants Association Alejandra Canales said these demands were put forth to protect not only campus workers, but the greater Madison area.

“The number of cases at UW-Madison, those are community cases as well. Those affect the broader Madison community,” Canales said. “The University has a responsibility to Madison in the sense of not adding to this.”

President of United Faculty and Staff Alyssa Franze said union groups at UW-Madsion asked campus workers about plans to return to campus, and received over 400 responses from graduate students, academic staff, university staff and faulty.

“Over 86 percent of the 400 people that responded that they are uncomfortable or extremely uncomfortable with the administration’s plans for the fall,” Franze said.

Franze said union groups, including her’s, made several requests to meet with the administration and was denied or ignored.

UW-Madison Chancellor for Finance and Administration Laurent Heller said the University has done everything it can to shield employees from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite facing a loss of $150 million this summer.

In response to the council’s demand for employment and payment continuity, Heller said the University offered significant paid leave for a period of time, but had no choice to make payroll cuts where needed.

Finances will be evaluated again in the fall, according to Heller.

Heller also noted to a section of the Smart Restart plan that has workplace accommodations for employees who can’t or have concerns about returning to campus.

UW-Madison paused the plan to upgrade to a $15 minimum wage in the spring. This plan never included student workers. The plan will be reinstated when the University is financially able to support it, according to Heller.

The University Labor Coalition is hosting a virtual forum on Wednesday to discuss and answer questions about returning to campus.