UNC Housekeepers Demand More COVID-19 Protections
Demands include adequate protective equipment, two weeks of additional sick leave, and increased funding for child care services.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Housekeepers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) are demanding improved protections against the coronavirus for themselves and all other campus employees.
UNC housekeepers rallied and delivered a petition on Wednesday as students are scheduled to return to campus on Aug. 10, reports ABC 11.
“This is not about us not working weekends. This is not about wages. This is life and death,” said housekeeper Tracy Harter. “We have employees that are afraid to sign a petition. They’re afraid to stand up where we are and everything because they need their jobs.”
According to the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union, some university departments are only providing employees with two masks per week. The union also said multiple workers have tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to clusters of students within the UNC athletics department.
“It’s not just about the students, it’s about the workers,” said UNC housekeeper crew leader Penny Elliot. “I think that is what’s getting mixed around that the university is concerned with the students’ health but they’re not concerned with the workers’ health. [We’ve] got families, too. We have to go home with our families, and if someone gets sick, that puts us at risk of taking it home with us.”
So far, more than 300 students and workers have signed the petition, which includes the following demands:
- Clear written protocol for quarantining staff and students who screen or test positive for the virus
- Consistent policies across departments for accommodations that comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Adequate protective equipment — 1 mask per shift; gloves, face shields and gowns where necessary
- Daily virus symptom screening for all staff and students on campus by professional personnel
- Make teaching in-person optional for all faculty and graduate workers without demanding reason or cause
- Two weeks of additional sick leave provided to all university employees
- Restore full administrative leave for all university employees, including temporary workers
- Increase funding for UNC’s Child Care Services Association (CCSA) and expand eligible coverage to every child of all university workers, including part-time and temporary
- Safe transportation and free parking for all workers
- A seat at the table for union leaders to meet with university administrators and management
More than 3,200 UNC faculty and staff members have also signed an online petition calling for online classes, increased testing, more tracking of infections and more protective gear for employees, according to WRAL.
“Nobody has a monopoly on a good idea,” Harter said. “Bring us to the table. Let us share what our thoughts and concerns are.”
University officials said they are requiring that everyone wear masks on campus but housekeepers say many students who have been on campus this summer are not complying.
Two residence halls will be prioritized for isolation and quarantine of students who have tested positive or were in close contact with an infected person, officials said. An outside contractor will be hired to clean those dorms.