The Higher Education committees of the state legislature held a hearing this week on how COVID-19 has impacted higher education.

What You Need To Know

  • The Legislature’s Higher Ed Committees held a hearing this week

  • The focus was on how COVID-19 has affected higher education

  • United University Professions (UUP) urged lawmakers to provide hazard pay to health care workers at SUNY’s 3 public hospitals

According to Fred Kowal, the president of United University Professions, the spring semester went well, “all things considered.”

But one subset of his members is deeply unhappy.

Kowal says that about a third of his members, or 13,000 people, work at the three public hospitals in New York State – Upstate in Syracuse, Downstate in Brooklyn, and Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island.

“Our members there had to deal with circumstances that were just unbelievably difficult. You know, treating 3000 patients. Losing about 300 or so. We had members who got sick. We had members who died,” he said.

Kowal claims that hospitals in New York City and Long Island have given frontline workers hazardous duty pay, but the folks at the SUNY hospitals have not received anything similar.

“We are pushing very hard for that. We think it’s just a question of justice,” Kowal told Spectrum News.

“Northwell got billions of dollars. They can pay their folks at their private hospitals. We think public employees should get the same, in recognition of the risks they took,” he went on.

For the rest of SUNY campuses, UUP’s position is that there needs to be comprehensive baseline testing as well as testing throughout the fall semester. Additionally, they want the administration to do surveillance on what’s happening at these campuses, along with physical distancing.

“We think that in order to protect our communities, this need to be done,” said Kowal. “And this isn’t just about our members. We are concerned about our communities and the places where we live and the families we live with.”