Dear President Cauce:
Since the confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in the US on January 20, Washington State has been on the leading edge of a pandemic that has now reached every state in the nation. As we adjust to daily-changing guidelines and restrictions concerning public gatherings in schools, churches, places of business, and the public sphere in general, we are facing not only the greatest public-health crisis but also, potentially, the greatest statewide economic crisis in generations. Nonetheless, despite sitting on an endowment of nearly $3 billion, despite being the fifth-largest employer in the state, and despite the unprecedented challenges facing all Washingtonians, the University of Washington is considering layoffs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the non-medical workers who cannot telework are most likely to be workers of color or immigrants, and already struggling with wages that do not keep up with the rising cost of living. Therefore, to lay off workers who cannot telework is by default to further marginalize the most vulnerable workers and to disproportionately harm workers of color.
We are employees of the University of Washington, members of labor unions, UW students and alumni from all three campuses, and concerned community members. We write to urge you to guarantee continued employment and wages for all UW employees--student employees, classified staff, professional staff, academic staff, and faculty--through the duration of this crisis. In a time like this, it is imperative that the UW honor its social and ethical obligations by taking the following actions: