Joint Statement on Wildfire Smoke Impact from the Campus Labor Council

Date: August 21, 2023

From: UO Campus Labor Council (UAUO 3209; SEIU503 Local 085; GTFF 3544; UOSW)

To: John Karl Scholz, President; Jamie Moffitt, Vice President of Finance and Administration; Andre le Duc, Director of Risk Management; Ruby Thompson, Safety Advisory Committee Chairperson

The UO Campus Labor Council, consisting of representatives from the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, United Academics, SEIU503 Local 085, and UO Student Workers, calls on the University of Oregon to proactively address ongoing climate and air quality concerns for our campus community. The consequences of global climate change have resulted in increasing temperatures and wildfires across the state, and the university must be prepared to adequately respond to emergency weather for the safety and
wellbeing of students and workers.

Amid a severe heat wave, members of this campus experienced unsafe air quality conditions as a result of nearby wildfires. On August 15, the air quality reached dangerous levels over 250 AQI, while outdoor temperatures remained steady at around 100 degrees. Numerous graduate employees notified EHS about the high indoor AQI levels across campus, yet they were given unclear responses about which campus buildings have proper ventilation systems. Classified workers were not consistently notified by supervisors about the AQI, and many were left uncertain if leaving campus to avoid these conditions was permitted. This lack of procedure similarly affects undergraduate workers, particularly those working outdoors during the summer term. Undergraduate orientations also continued without an apparent shift in location to prevent students’ exposure to hazardous air quality and temperatures.

The impacts of inclement weather are felt by students and campus workers alike. Campus and academic workers utilize UO facilities during the summer to continue their research and to fulfill summer
employment duties, and both have expressed concerns about their capacity to safely perform work without adequate cooling or ventilation. Classified staff in particular experience serious impacts resulting from a lack of proactive institutional preparedness for inclement weather, as their positions require their consistent presence on campus throughout the year. For example, janitorial staff are exposed to unhealthy air quality in buildings that are not fitted with proper ventilation systems, and outdoor workers are given
few or no options to avoid high AQI levels.

Unsafe climate conditions have increased in frequency in recent years, and this has created a growing need for the administration to develop more proactive responses to emergency weather situations. We recognize that the UO released information about these unsafe conditions earlier this week, yet this announcement was not paired with an adequate on-the-ground effort to enforce the recommended
mitigation measures for students and workers.

This week’s weather constitutes a climate emergency, and members of our campus need to be notified more directly about the capacity of campus facilities to adequately protect their wellbeing from the effects of such conditions. Unclear information and lack of notice to campus workers are not acceptable, and the university must take on greater responsibility to protect members of this campus.

The council asks that UO consider the impact of global climate change on the lives and jobs of students and workers. As a leader in environmental and climate research, the university should also take
responsibility for being a leader in institutional responsiveness to climate dangers. We believe that further improvement is needed for the university’s proposed measures to inclement weather and that
collaboration between campus unions and administration is necessary to incorporate emergency safety procedures into our respective workplaces.

UO Campus Labor Council
Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, AFT Local 3544
United Academics of the University of Oregon, AAUP/AFT Local 3209
Service Employees International Union 503, Local 085
UO Student Workers