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Grad student union files OSHA complaint against U of I for COVID policies

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Campaign to Organize Graduate Students or "COGS" filed a workplace safety complaint this week against the University of Iowa for its COVID-19 policies.

The union filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration, saying that the university's lack of a mask mandate or vaccine requirement violates the federal law that "employers must furnish an environment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death."

"Iowa City has a mask mandate, but the university has said, 'That doesn't apply to us,'" Caleb Klipowicz said, a member of COGS/UE Local 896. "We also want more control for teachers for when they can move their classes online."

In response, the University says it is following the Board of Regents and Iowa state law. The Board of Regents has confirmed HF847 (mask mandate law) does not apply to state universities, but a spokesperson for the U of I specifically said they are following HF889, which bans vaccine passports.

The university also says it is doing several other COVID safety measures; like strongly encouraging masks and vaccines, requiring masks in health care settings and on public transportation, and doing CDC-recommended cleaning and disinfecting.

The United Faculty at the University of Northern Iowa filed a similar OSHA complaint on August 13. Iowa Workforce Development responded by saying it would not do an inspection of UNI, but did ask UNI's head of risk management to do a safety audit of his own.

Self-reported COVID cases are down significantly this semester at the U of I compared to Fall 2020. After the first month of classes at Iowa in 2020, there were 1,886 confirmed cases. After the first month of the 2021 semester, there have been 289 total cases between faculty and staff.