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Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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SUNY faculty union petitions Gov. Cuomo to expand vaccine eligibility to all in-person university employees

Expansion would make 4,000 on-campus employees eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Cuomo announced in January that the state would include “in-person college faculty and instructors” to the list of early vaccine eligibility, but he did not include other university staff.
Gov. Cuomo announced in January that the state would include “in-person college faculty and instructors” to the list of early vaccine eligibility, but he did not include other university staff.

United University Professions, the bargaining unit for SUNY faculty and professional staff members, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter and petition Wednesday to explicitly include “all in-person higher education staff” in the state’s 1b vaccination phase.

The petition has garnered 3,501 signatures, as of Friday morning. Mike Lisi, director of media relations and publications for UUP, says the union’s goal is to obtain 10,000 signatures. 

Under the proposed criteria change, “as many as 4,000 of our members would be eligible for priority vaccinations,” Lisi wrote in an email.

Gov. Cuomo announced in January that the state would include “in-person college faculty and instructors” to the list of early vaccine eligibility, but he did not include other university staff.

“We welcome this addition,” UUP President Fredrick Kowal said in a Jan. 15 statement following the governor’s announcement. “However, many of our professional members work in residence halls, registrar offices, libraries and many other operations open to the public at SUNY campuses. These crucial employees have not been included in the 1b classification — and that means they will not be eligible for vaccinations as we begin the spring semester. This is unacceptable.”

Kowal distributed the petition via email to the union’s membership on Wednesday.

“Take a moment to sign the petition so we can send a strong message to Gov. Cuomo,” Kowal wrote in the email. “I expect each and every UUP member to sign this petition: It is a simple question of health and safety for us all.”

UUP leadership claims its petition is already getting results.

Since the petition’s release on Wednesday, “SUNY determined that staff who provide regular residence life programming to students and who live on-site in student housing facilities at SUNY campuses are eligible for priority vaccination,” Lisi said. “UUP was instrumental in getting priority vaccine designation for these employees.”

Union leaders are also “working on an action plan” in the event that the governor denies its request, Lisi said, adding that the union is “hopeful the governor will see clear to allow these important employees access to priority vaccinations.”

The governor’s press office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publishing. 

Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com

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GRANT ASHLEY

Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor for The Spectrum.  He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor.  He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. 

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