Friday, January 15, 2021
NY’s 1B Classification Includes ‘In-person College Instructors,’ but Fails to Name Explicitly In-Person Staff Who Are At Risk of COVID Exposure
New York—On Monday, as a result of advocacy by the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, together with its statewide affiliate NYSUT and sister union at SUNY, United University Professions, New York State added “in-person higher education instructors” to the Phase 1B classification for priority vaccinations.
But hundreds of instructional staff working in person who are at risk of COVID exposure while working in CUNY laboratories, offices, dorms and other sites need the State to confirm immediately that they are eligible for vaccinations, according to PSC President Barbara Bowen.
“The PSC calls on New York State to clarify that ‘instructors’ includes all on-campus instructional staff—professors, lecturers, librarians, registrars, laboratory assistants, counselors, and all other instructional staff members represented by the PSC. Many of these dedicated employees have been working in person, without any option to work remotely, since the pandemic began. They have made it possible for CUNY to stay open and continue to serve the half-million New Yorkers for whom the University is a lifeline in this economic crisis. They include the professional staff who have been keeping food pantries open for students, those classified as ‘essential workers,’ and those who work on campus, with students, to ensure that students have access to laptops and needed services,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen.
“As a member of the professional staff myself, I know how vital the work of CUNY’s professional staff is. All college employees—in every rank, title and union—who are working in person during the pandemic must be classified as 1B for priority access to the vaccine. At least 51 members of the CUNY community have died because of COVID, including 22 staff. If our CUNY communities are to be deemed safe for any, they must be deemed safe for all. Only in this way can we ensure that there are no more COVID deaths at CUNY,” said PSC First Vice President Andrea Vásquez, an Associate Higher Education Officer at the CUNY Graduate Center.
CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez has announced that the University intends to begin a “gradual return to mostly in-person instruction and support services in time for the start of classes in Fall 2021.” The union, which has already come to the brink of a safety strike to demand better COVID safety protocols at the Hunter College Campus Schools, is demanding that all PSC-represented workers be given access to the vaccine in time for a return to on-campus work in the fall.
Governor Cuomo has said unions should have a role in organizing vaccine delivery to their members, and CUNY campuses are being considered as possible sites for vaccination hubs. The PSC has informed both the Governor’s and the Mayor’s office that the union is willing to facilitate vaccinations for its entire membership. PSC members also stand ready to assist in any way they can to facilitate access to vaccination for CUNY students, most of whom are from the Black and brown communities hardest hit by the coronavirus.