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UO Coalition Organizes Safety Demonstration

Eric Howanietz covid labor event

On Friday Jan 21st 11:30am The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) lead a “Health and Safety speakout” with a diverse coalition of campus organizations in solidarity. The original speak out was planned to be in front of the Administration building at Johnson Hall.

But organizers claimed they had received “a slap on the wrist” about a protest earlier that week in front of the admin building and acquiesced to a location change in front of the EMU.

The voice of the speak out was clearly directed at administration policy concerning the recent Omicron surge. Grad students, teachers, and undergrads all voiced serious health and safety fears as the 2022 winter term unfolds. The legacy of administration mismanagement was widely reiterated as going back to the now infamous March 2020 Board of Trustees meeting. Chairman Chuck Lillis shoved past student protesters in order to ram through a disastrous neo-liberal tuition policy (Guaranteed Tuition) and spend millions on a new jumbotron for Autzen Stadium.

The broad coalition included support from United Academics, ASUO, Democratize UO, National Lawyers Guild, Climate Justice League, and Insurgent. There was even a growing voice for the nascent student workers union forming on campus. Grad Union members talked about policies where existing international residents of the graduate village were displaced to make room for medical isolation facilities with no concern for the previous occupants.

Others were disturbed by the lack of policy information, access to infection data, and the transparency of decision-making processes. The staff organizer of GTFF Michael Marchman says the union filed an unfair labor practices claim about the admin’s handling of working conditions.

Marchman is also hopeful that a student workers union will help create labor continuity across all university employees and believes that there are not many places in the country ripe for such a situation.

Organizers are also promoting the Thursday January 27th Starbucks Union rally at 29th & Willamette St. Many are hopeful that this will be a new phase of service worker organizing that will help renew past traditions of community solidarity.

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