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Colleague to Colleague! UofT Faculty & Librarians Solidarity Fund
$99,439 raised
28% of $350k goal
271 contributors
85 Days running

The COVID-19 pandemic has created cascading crises that cut across our campus communities in deeply uneven ways.  Tenured faculty, continuing status faculty and permanent status librarians have seen no substantive changes in their employment status or salaries to date, yet other employee groups are in more precarious situations. Contingent staff are already being furloughed and laid off, and it is unclear whether positions will be renewed going forward. Some of these staff are not eligible for governmental support from programs such as CERB, while others have not been eligible for the university’s continuity pay because they are subcontracted.

A group of faculty and librarians has been working together for the last 4 months to create this Emergency Solidarity Fund to allow those of us who are able to share resources to do so with those who need them. We have carefully considered different models and consulted key parties to design a simple and direct way that we, as faculty and librarians with employment security, can collectively contribute to those most in need as a result of the ongoing pandemic. We had initially aimed to have the option to donate funds appear on your letter of annual increase, but after unsuccessful efforts to enlist institutional support, we have decided to proceed with this important initiative independently.

In designing this fund, we have built relationships of solidarity with three campus labour groups. They represent members of our community who are some of the hardest hit by financial need as well as the long-term effects of systemic racism and sexism, and who have fallen through the cracks of other campus emergency funding initiatives. Below is current testimony from those groups that point to the dire need of campus community members who many of us have not seen since March.

UNITE HERE Local 75 "95% of our union members are laid off, leaving most of our members scrambling to find ways to support their families" - UNITE HERE

As frontline workers in the hospitality and food service industries, nearly 8,000 UNITE HERE LOCAL 75 members and the families they support are among the first and hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes our food service members at UTSC. 95% of our union members are laid off, leaving most of our members scrambling to find ways to support their families. During this difficult time, our members have identified difficulties in paying rent/utilities and in purchasing groceries as a result of financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19.  While government support is appreciated, our members, who are majority women, immigrants, and people of colour will need more support so they can weather this storm.

USW 1998 Casual Unit "[O]ur membership numbers between June 2019 and June 2020 shows 1600 fewer jobs. These workers don’t receive any EI top up" - USW

The USW 1998 Casual Unit comprises student and non-student workers who do a wide variety of jobs in the university. They are generally on contracts that are part-time, short-term or seasonal. Although our collective agreement has provisions for longer-term casuals to convert to continuing status with benefits and pension, many casuals go from contract to contract for years without any job security or benefits. Even in normal times, their work is precarious. Normally close to 4,000 work in any given month and a total of about 10,000 individuals work at U of T in any given year. It is difficult for us to even know how many casual members lost work at the University due to COVID because they aren’t technically laid off.  A comparison of our membership numbers between June 2019 and June 2020 shows 1600 fewer jobs. These workers don’t receive any EI top up from the employer and don’t have any rights to be recalled when things open up again. Many of them are having difficulty making ends meet and could use assistance.

  Many contract academic workers have very little job security and some are ineligible for government and university relief programs - CUPE 3902

CUPE Local 3902 represents some 10,000 contract academic workers at the UofT, including your Exam Invigilators, colleagues precariously employed as Sessional Lecturers, and Teaching Assistants. In June 2019, we had 134 members working to invigilate and oversee exams; in June 2020, we have 12 members performing this same work. This is a 91% drop in work, without any mechanism in place to provide pay continuity or otherwise help these members make ends meet. In September 2020, we expect to see a huge drop in the number of members working as Sessional Lecturers. Sessional Lecturers have to apply year after year to teach their own courses — the same courses they have historically taught at the University. They have very little job security and, with Faculty recalled in the 2020-21 year, have lost courses they have long relied on. Many Teaching Assistants are also international students, struggling to complete underfunded degrees. They do not qualify for CESB or other forms of government support and are scrambling to find more work to pay tuition for and support themselves through degrees now prolonged by the pandemic.

Colleague to Colleague: A Solidarity Fund

This initiative is one in a series of efforts responding to this difficult moment -- a small but important part of the growing solidarity that has blossomed on campus in the current context, from climate and divestment activism and critiques of the entanglement of corporate extractivism in the university; to workplace healthequity, and safety advocacy for essential workers, especially in the context of re-opening plans; and to calls for action on entrenched anti-Blackness and other forms of racism on campus.

All funds raised for this COVID-19 Solidarity Fund will be disbursed via USW 1998, UNITE HERE LOCAL 75, and CUPE 3902 to their members. Details about the principles for the distribution of funds are available here.

We are writing to you directly, our faculty and librarian colleagues, to urge you to consider contributing generously and share significant resources in a show of solidarity with the staff who are such crucial – though often invisible – parts of the University community, and who are experiencing layoffs and other forms of precarity despite their service to the richest University in the country. Some of you may be channeling support to extended families and to particular local-transnational communities; others may be struggling with a partner’s job loss. We recognize and respect these commitments, but for those who can, we ask you to consider the needs of fellow workers at U of T, another of your communities. 

We have an ambitious but completely feasible goal of raising $350,000 to distribute to workers who are in deep need. This would entail, for example, just 350 out of more than 3,000 colleagues, contributing $1000 each. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider sharing a significant portion of your salary increase with those in the university community who have instead found their incomes shrink in this time of crisis.


Signed,

Your colleagues, organizers of the Colleague to Colleague Solidarity Fund, including:

Michael Attridge, Professor, Faculty of Theology, University of St. Michael's College, UTSG
Joseph Berkovitz, Associate Professor, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, UTSG
Kathy Bickmore, Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Michelle Buckley, Assistant Professor, Human Geography, UTSC
Deborah Cowen, Professor, Geography & Planning, UTSG
Lucia Dacome, Associate Professor, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, UTSG
Mike Ekers, Assistant Professor, Human Geography, UTSC
Rachel Goffe, Assistant Professor, Human Geography, UTSC
Paul Hamel, Professor, Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology, UTSG
Matthew Hoffmann, Professor, Political Science UTSC and Co-Director, Environmental Governance Lab, UTSG
Sherry D. Lee, Associate Professor, Musicology, UTSG
Melissa Levin, Part-time lecturer, African Studies, New College, UTSG
Ken MacDonald, Associate Professor, Human Geography, UTSC
Nicole Mideo, Associate Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UTSG
Nada Moumtaz, Assistant Professor, Study of Religion, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, UTSG
Scott Prudham, Professor, Geography & Planning and School of the Environment
E. Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, Historical and Cultural Studies, UTSC
Ted Sammons, Assistant Professor (CLTA), Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, UTSG
Kathleen Scheaffer, Learning and Research Librarian, ICCIT, UTM
Alissa Trotz, Professor, Women and Gender Studies and Caribbean Studies, UTSG
Jane Wolff, Associate Professor, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

 

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