First, I want to thank you all for your strength and perseverance throughout the past year. Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy, as members of our local have struggled with serious illness and lost friends and family members to this terrible disease.
Now that several COVID-19 vaccinations are approved and vaccination programs are underway, we are making real progress toward reducing infections, illness and death from the virus. Some of you have already been vaccinated, or plan to be vaccinated soon.
UPTE’s International union, CWA, has done a thorough review of information about the COVID-19 vaccines. UPTE and CWA strongly recommend that all members be vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine to protect themselves, their families, their co-workers, and their communities.
In addition, while UPTE supports voluntary vaccination programs, we oppose mandatory vaccination as a condition of continued employment.
The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by the FDA have been thoroughly tested, and the test results have been reviewed by an independent panel of medical experts. They have found them to be safe and very effective at keeping you from getting symptomatic COVID-19, or getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
The vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses, or immunity, so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help to prevent mild, asymptomatic COVID-19 disease.
The COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you the disease itself. The vaccines may cause side effects in some people like sore muscles, feeling tired, or mild fever. These reactions mean the vaccine is working to help teach your body’s immune system how to fight COVID-19, if you are exposed.
Members are able to get vaccinated without fear of lost wages or other bargained leave. The University of California allows employees to be vaccinated on paid work time, and we are working to expand employee access to the limited vaccine supply. Many of employees who are working in UC hospitals have already been vaccinated, and campus appointments have started and will continue as supplies allow, consistent with county guidelines on priority groups.
UPTE has demanded UC provide additional Paid Administrative Leave COVID hours for illness as well as vaccination-related sick time for those people who may have vaccine-related side effects, like fever, and need to miss work temporarily. We will fight any attempt by employers to discipline employees for absences related to vaccine-related side effects.
We will demand that UC bargain in good faith with us over all workplace vaccine-related policies and procedures.
UPTE strongly supports equitable and fair vaccine distribution for all. Barriers to vaccine access must be called out and removed. COVID-19 vaccines are being provided free of charge with no out-of-pocket expenses to UC employees. Federal and state governments must uphold the principles of equity and justice regarding vaccine access and distribution to ensure those in all geographic communities (urban, suburban and rural), people from disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups, as well as vulnerable groups, including essential workers, older adults, people with underlying medical conditions are able to be vaccinated in a timely manner. Small campuses must have fair access, similar to large campuses. UPTE recognizes and remains committed to fighting against systemic inequalities and racism that exist in healthcare and public health systems.
In order to be effective, widespread COVID-19 vaccination in as short a timeframe as possible is crucial, but vaccines alone are not enough. Vaccinations must be implemented in conjunction with comprehensive workplace and community protections and precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19, and bring an end to the pandemic.
UC must continue to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to employees and implement comprehensive workplace protections and mitigation strategies, such as improvements in ventilation, social distancing, contact tracing, provision of appropriate personal protective equipment, cleaning/disinfection, keeping sick employees away from the workplace, quarantining exposed employees, and viral testing.
UPTE’s national union CWA has set up a webpage at cwa.org/covid with the latest information about COVID-19 safety and vaccination, including links to information about vaccine eligibility rules and the sign-up process.
UPTE members who have concerns about COVID-19 vaccines and their own health conditions should consult with their personal healthcare provider.
Stopping this pandemic for good is going to require all the tools that we have available – staying at least 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with you, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing your hands frequently, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated. We all need to continue these healthy behaviors even after being vaccinated.
Stay informed, be safe, get vaccinated and together we will end this pandemic.