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Unions Demanding Stronger COVID-19 Mitigation Measures At ASU, UA

Members of the United Campus Workers Arizona at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have sent letters to administrators demanding stronger mitigation measures as they prepare to offer in-person classes during the fall semester. 

The unions representing university employees say they are "extremely concerned by the inaction of university leadership in response to the rapid, harmful transmission of the delta variant of COVID-19 within Maricopa and Pima counties, which threatens the lives and safety of all workers and students on their campuses."

The groups are asking the universities to require masks, COVID-19 vaccines and regular testing.

“We want to have in-person classes and many of the students as well, but we are alarmed by the outbreaks already in K-12 schools," said ASU English professor Richard Newhauser. 

But Arizona public colleges and universities are banned from doing this by an executive order and a new state law. So instead ASU and UA are strongly recommending masks, testing and vaccination. This leaves room for people to ignore public health guidelines, Newhauser said.  

During a Monday press conference, UA President Robert Robbins said the Tucson-based university would obey the law and did not expect it would challenge it like some K-12 school districts are doing. This was disappointing to English instructor Nick Halsey with the union representing UA employees. 

“We would be more encouraged if we saw the president or the administration looking into possible legal challenges, maybe taking that possibility more seriously," Halsey said. 

The unions are also asking universities to provide flexible learning and working options and hazard pay to employees working in person. Robbins has said he supports flexibility in classes. 

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.