Takeaway: We expect that you will receive an email from Vivian Fernández, Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness, telling you that the university will break our union contract and “withhold” the pay increases we fought so hard last year to achieve in our new contract. We’re writing to you today to give you the facts about the salary freeze—and talk about what we, as a union of faculty and grads and part of the Coalition of Rutgers Unions, can do.
Today is the last day of the Barchi Administration, with faculty and staff salary increases cancelled and grad workers’ raises frozen unilaterally across the university during the most challenging of times. It didn’t have to end this way. For faculty, the cancelling of increases based on merit (up to 10%) will lead to significant income losses over a lifetime of earnings. For grad workers, frozen salaries when other work is not reasonably available is an insult added to the injury of lost research productivity and no guarantees of extended funding. Other staff are losing the first decent wage increases they have seen since the 2008 financial crisis, the last time Rutgers declared a fiscal emergency. Others have been laid off entirely, leaving them without necessary income and health insurance during a pandemic and leaving some of their children without tuition remission they depend on.
Many of you may have seen that Rutgers has imposed a furlough program on not-yet-unionized Rutgers employees, known as “non-aligned” employees. The Coalition of Rutgers Unions has been attempting for more than a month now to negotiate a work-sharing program that would have saved the University more than $100 million if enacted in a timely manner while keeping all faculty and staff whole via enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act. Rutgers’ unilateral action toward nonunion workers is particularly egregious given that the University took too long to act. If they had acted six weeks ago, when we first proposed work-sharing, nonunion workers could have been furloughed during a time when they were fully eligible for CARES Act support. When the CARES Act expires at the end of July, these workers will be lucky to get any additional support.
Rutgers said in their communication yesterday that they “have already entered a work-share furlough program with two of our unions, and hope that other unions will follow suit.” The Coalition of Rutgers Unions would like to ask: What has Rutgers been waiting for? Why has it left tens of millions of dollars in CARES Act funding on the table by delaying an agreement with our unions? Why did it refuse to meet with our Coalition collectively to negotiate an agreement after its fiscal emergency declaration, opting instead to have substanceless meetings with 19 unions in 21 days? Why did it waste valuable time attacking some Coalition unions and threatening layoffs, instead of negotiating an agreement that was beneficial to all involved?
At a time when the Barchi Administration should have been protecting the most vulnerable among us—grad workers, part-time lecturers, custodians, dining service and other low-wage workers, researchers, health care providers, international students, and scholars—they instead were looking after their own bottom line. When we should have been working together to protect our communities, they were too busy protecting credit ratings and hoarding the rainy-day funds accumulated through our labor and increasing tuition. Not one among us would have faulted President Barchi for expressing compassion and choosing progressive spending to help us all through this pandemic.
The State University of New Jersey, which is still the Rutgers moniker, should be at the forefront of progressivism in aiding our communities and our economy. Instead, layoffs, funding cuts, and wage freezes have ruled the final days of this callous administration. The lawyers and accountants who dominate Rutgers management have shown themselves unfit to lead and must go. The “responsibility center management” budget model that punished the Camden campus for admitting and supporting the poorest students of New Jersey must also go. Board of Governors chair Mark Angelson promised at the last governors’ meeting that “a new day is coming.” Let us all hope so.
On the last day of the Barchi administration, Rutgers AAUP-AFT has filed grievances against the current management’s inaction on ANY of the 100-plus pay equity cases filed by members dating back to the start of this academic year in September 2019. Not one of us has received a final decision. We do know that Jackson Lewis, a notorious anti-union law firm, is advising the administration on the pay equity program.
AAUP-AFT will also be grieving management’s inaction regarding the completion of the merit evaluation process that should have led to a raise for faculty tomorrow. Department Peer Evaluation Committees completed their part, as did Department Chairs, in a timely manner. After that, management told Deans and Chancellors to hold up on making any further decisions on our merit raises. That was two months ago. Management’s defense is that we don’t need to know the amount of the raise if they intend to never pay it!
Finally, we are joining with all of our partners in the Coalition of Rutgers Unions in filing separate grievances on the withholding of raises due to our members July 1st. These grievances will go directly to arbitration, and a neutral party will determine if President Barchi and his team were technically justified in withholding the raises.
We are all ready for a new day and hope to work with Chairperson Angelson and the new administration to realize a more progressive and equitable Rutgers for our students, our colleagues, and our state.
Todd and Becky
Rutgers AAUP-AFT and the Coalition of Rutgers Unions
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFTRutgers AAUP-AFT
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