UK Worker Group demands enhanced safety, health measures

This article was Posted at 10:21 PM, Nov 12, 2020 and last updated 11:40 PM, Nov 12, 2020 by LEX18

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Dozens of University of Kentucky students and employees are demanding a meeting with President Eli Capilouto to address concerns over UK's response to the pandemic. The United Campus Workers of Kentucky voiced frustration on Thursday during a march on campus.

The group demanded improved health and safety measures and called attention to the risks front-line staff continue to face through the pandemic.

"We're asking for protections for workers. They deserve hazard pay," said Khari Gardner, the founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement at UK. "They're the ones cleaning the dorms right now, they're the ones cleaning the facilities, cleaning the classrooms. We're asking for people to be protected during this pandemic. It's time for people over profits."

In addition to hazard pay for workers, union members are demanding university-wide temperature checks of in-person staff, transparent contact tracing and the right for faculty and staff to work remotely whenever possible.

"This is a very important thing to me," UK English Professor Marion Rust said. "It has really given me a sense of purpose and a sense of being able to do something when life feels overwhelming right now."

Rust is extremely cautious when it comes to COVID-19. With a high-risk loved one at home, she doesn't venture outside much. But for her, this is a cause worth fighting for.

Rust and other members brought their demands outside President Capilouto's office. He never came outside, but the group was able to hand an administrator a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

In a respone to an email for LEX 18, UK Spokesperson Jay Blanton said UK has done more testing, tracing and screening than virtually any institution in the state, and he insisted that the university has been clear that anyone who can work remotely should do so. He also said that UK has invested more than $30 million thus far in the health, safety and wellness of the community.