On April 30, 2021, there was a rally at the University of Georgia Administration (UGA) for an end-of-the-year review to draw attention to several failures that UGA employees and local community members believe the administration has fallen short in, including workers’ compensation and workplace safety.
Several organizations from the local community showed up at the rally to petition for better treatment of UGA campus employees, faculty and staff.
Workers’ compensation and jobs at UGA
United Campus Workers of Georgia (UCWGA) is the organization that performed the review for UGA. They did their own research to discover the effect COVID-19 had on UGA’s workforce. They looked at various categories including job security, wages, graduate workers, part-time workers and “chop from the top.” This refers to cutting salaries from their highest paid employees.
One of those “chop from the top” employees included UGA president Jere Morehead, who made more than $900,000 last year.
According to their research, UGA’s workforce shrunk by over 560 jobs from November 2019 to November 2020. This is the largest job loss out of the entire University System of Georgia (USG), which consists of 26 institutions.
“UGA is great because of the greatness of its workers. It’s time for UGA to appreciate its workers, not with the type of hollow ‘thank you’s’ that UGA is so fond of handing out in the form of emails,” said Justin Simpson, a graduate student worker in the philosophy department.
UCWGA also found out that UGA pays 16 percent of its workers less than $30,000 per year, it doesn’t hand out hazard pay and doesn’t compete with cost-of-living adjustments since 1990.
Workplace safety at UGA
UCWGA also conducted research on the workplace safety of UGA. These categories include COVID-19 mitigation, safety policies and mental health support.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 6,000 positive cases have been reported to UGA.
“We should be wary of those who try to weaponize the COVID slogan that we’re all in this together,” Simpson said. “This slogan has been used to conceal how we’re not all in this together, injustices and inequalities abound.”
According to its Board of Regents, USG supported maximizing in-person instruction during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. Their fall reopening made Athens’ per capita case rate one of the highest in the U.S.
“We know that there are so many of our communities that work more than eight hours a day under unsafe working conditions, especially under the pandemic for low wages,” said Jessica Martinez, a member of Dignidad Inmigrante.
Workers’ compensation in Georgia
In nearly all cases, college and university employees who are injured on the job in Georgia — or one who suffered a disability or disease related to their job — should be eligible to receive some level of benefits through the Georgia workers’ compensation system. These benefits can include reimbursement for medical treatment, rehabilitation support, lost wages and supplemental income if you suffer an injury or fall ill as a result of a work-related accident. In the case of death, a person’s dependents may also be eligible to claim certain benefits.
While fault is typically not a factor in receiving Georgia workers’ comp benefits, you must demonstrate a certain level of responsibility by following a number of steps after an injury or illness is discovered.