February 2022 Advocate: Campaign for Safe Campuses

Health and safety

AFT’s Campaign for Safe Campuses: A review

Just as our campuses were slated for a broad in-person reopening this Spring, the Omicron variant of Covid created an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases and most local colleges either moved face-to-face classes to remote learning for a few weeks or gave faculty the flexibility to move their classes online temporarily based on their students and classroom conditions. While our district was not prepared with promised Covid testing for all, nor with adequate supplies of N95/KN95 masks for all students, district administrators nevertheless did not allow faculty or staff the option to temporarily move to remote work.

AFT Demands

AFT responded to the district’s decision by calling on the district to meet three public health and safety demands:

  • Basic campus safety equipment, including N95 masks or the equivalent for everyone—faculty, staff and students—and air purifiers for all employees who request them
  • Universal on-demand testing for everyone who asks to be tested
  • The option for faculty and staff to work remotely during the Covid surge if they determine that their in-person conditions are unsafe or preventing students from accessing education

AFT Action

Over the first week and half of the semester, as the district failed to provide Covid-19 testing and resisted allowing faculty and staff flexibility to temporarily shift to remote work, our members continued to apply pressure. Together with CSEA staff, you sent more than 900 letters to the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees demanding improved safety protections—and you had conversations with your students about their needs for safe campuses, with the result that students sent 744 more letters in support of our demands. You came together with students, staff and local elected officials at our press conference on Thursday, Jan. 20 to bring attention to our safety needs. And you spoke out with students and staff about the obstacles Covid continues to present for student learning at the January 26 Board of Trustees of meeting.

Some of the speakers at AFT’s Jan. 20 press conference to bring attention to our safety needs included (from left to right) Daly City Mayor and Skyline College Filipino Studies Professor Rod Daus-Magbual, one of several student speakers, Skyline College Math Professor Tadashi Tsuchida and South San Francisco City Council Member James Coleman

The District’s Response

Safety equipment:  faculty were given access to N95 masks (available at division offices) and KN95 masks were made available to students at each college bookstore—although there has been minimal messaging to make students aware of these masks and the importance of wearing them.

(Update: As of Tuesday, February 8, mask dispensers for students — shown at left — have appeared around college buildings. This is a welcome step forward.)

AFT continues to advocate for access to air purifiers in all areas of campus where there is need. If you have requested an air purifier—whether or not you have received it—please click here to fill out our Google form to let us know.

Testing: The district belatedly ordered bulk supplies of rapid Covid-19 testing kits. Safety Committees were told that 7600 antigen tests were due to arrive this past Tuesday for students and employees, but as of today are still delayed. The district says that on-demand Covid testing sites are due to open on every campus this month.

Continuing to Organize Together

We know that many AFT members continue to feel unsafe at work and don’t feel the district has taken faculty, staff and students’ conditions seriously, especially in their unwillingness to provide any options for temporary remote work during the height of the Omicron surge. We are continuing to organize with you for safe campuses and accessible education. In the near future, we will be holding a Town Hall meeting to bring together students, faculty and staff to discuss how we can act to ensure one another’s safety. We will also be calling on all of you to help us build our union’s organizational strength so we can continue to work together to guarantee fair working and learning conditions for all.  [See “Building AFT’s Contract Action Team network“] As more of you step up and get involved, we will be able to accomplish even more.