Statement by UUP President Frederick E. Kowal on the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine directives for state employees, health care workers

This is UUP’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s July 28 order for state workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The governor also said he would mandate vaccinations for “patient-facing” health care workers at SUNY’s public teaching hospitals.

“Throughout the pandemic, United University Professions has taken the lead in keeping our students, our patients and our members safe. We have worked closely with SUNY to enact COVID-19 surveillance testing and mask-wearing mandates on our campuses.

“In a recent survey of our members, nearly 90% report being vaccinated against COVID-19. On July 1, UUP and SUNY agreed to extend mandatory weekly coronavirus testing for unvaccinated union-represented employees. This is similar to today’s COVID-19 vaccine directive from the governor regarding state employees.

“Because today’s directives from the governor—particularly mandatory vaccinations for our front-facing health care workers at SUNY’s public teaching hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse—would change the terms and conditions of employment for our members, they must be negotiated with UUP before they are imposed.

“UUP is willing to negotiate the implementation of the governor’s directives. We look forward to meeting with and discussing these issues with state representatives.

“Our union believes that all people who are physically able should be inoculated against COVID-19, and we have urged our members many times—most recently through our #VaxUpUUP campaign—to roll up their sleeves and get the vaccine.

“Combatting COVID-19 by vaccinating as many people as possible is an important public health concern that must be addressed swiftly. UUP has shown itself to be a responsible community member and our union will continue to be proactive in that role.”UUP is the nation’s largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.