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Union Protests UGA’s Reopening Plan, or Lack Thereof

Credit: Jessica Luton

Protestors with the UGA chapter of the United Campus Workers of Georgia gathered Monday afternoon to protest UGA’s reopening of campus for in-person classes. Nearly three dozen members lined the sidewalk on Broad Street near the Arch with signs and demands for UGA to put “people over profit.”

Across the state, UCWGA chapters held events meant to draw attention to their demands for a safe reopening. In particular, the group is advocating for security for frontline workers and staff who are most susceptible to exposure, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, graduate students and professors. At Georgia Tech, students, staff and professors participated in a die-in demonstration similar to one at UGA last week. Additional demonstrations were also held at Georgia State University and Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

In July, UGA’s first COVID-19 related death, of 32-year-old maintenance worker Ana Cabrera, was confirmed, although UGA has declined to comment on the nature of the death.Her family has spoken out in hopes that others will not die as UGA reopens for classes beginning Thursday, Aug. 20.

Following the protest, the University of North Carolina announced it was reverting to online-only classes and refunding housing contracts to students after the rate of positive tests rose from 2.6% to 13.6% during the first week of classes. The World Health Organization recommends a positive rate of 5% or below to control the rate of transmission of the COVID-19.

The UCWGA has been staunch critics of UGA’s reopening plans. Joe Fu, local chapter treasurer, penned this op-ed for Flagpole last week. A new piece from Fu on Monday further outlined the union’s concerns.

Among the concerns as the first day of classes approaches is the lack of data transparency concerning positive case counts and deaths, an option to opt out of face-to-face campus interactions regardless of need or reason, hazard pay for frontline workers, paid leave for quarantined workers, guaranteed pay for staff in the event of an online only switch and a clear plan for student quarantining. 

Another organized event, separate from the UCWGA, is planned for Aug. 20, the first day of classes. An organized “sick out” event is planned, as well as a caravan protest. For more information or to participate, click here.

UPDATE: The sick-out has been postponed.

Blake Aued