Takeway: We’re writing to update you on fiscal emergency negotiations and to highlight the urgency of one of our main people-centered demands: funding extensions for our grad workers. If you have questions and concerns about work-sharing, look for answers in our updated FAQ on negotiations and work-sharing.
Last month, we proposed negotiations with management over our union coalition’s key demands: funding extensions for grad workers, a no-layoff guarantee for staff unions through the end of our contracts in June 2022, reappointment of PTLs to Fall 2019 levels, and a timetable for our canceled raises to be paid. In return, we proposed that our members would accept a half-day-a-week furlough through mid-March under a work-sharing program that would save Rutgers well over $1 million a week, while the vast majority of union members would preserve—and in many cases even increase—their incomes through unemployment benefits, thanks to the $300-a-week federal supplement.
If management had agreed to this proposal when we made it in early January, Rutgers would have saved over $10 million from our bargaining unit alone by mid-March, when the current unemployment insurance supplement expires. Last spring, under former President Barchi, Rutgers lost $140 million when management refused to reach a deal with our unions on work-sharing.
We are once again making a people-centered proposal to prevent layoffs and protect the vulnerable while allowing Rutgers to save millions of dollars, thanks to a federal relief program intended to support institutions like ours. Negotiations have been slow in coming, but they are underway now. The clock is ticking, though—every week that we fail to reach an agreement is another million dollars in savings lost.
We can’t overstate the importance of winning funding extensions for our grad workers whose programs and research have been delayed by the pandemic. Without extensions, we would lose grad colleagues who can’t afford to finish their degrees—and that is unacceptable. We are proposing a simple and transparent application process for funding extensions, with a committee half composed of faculty to process the requests. We want any grad whose work has been delayed or harmed to get the funding they need.
The cost of meeting this urgent need would be pocket change for Rutgers management. They spend $4 million every year to pay the head football coach and over $65 million to pay their 312 top-level managers. If management used just 1 or 2 percent of Rutgers’ unrestricted “rainy day” reserves, they could fund grad extensions.
On the other hand, funding extensions would make a world of difference to grad workers, who aren’t paid a living wage to begin with. And our full-time faculty know how important graduate students and workers are to our own work and to keeping the university running.
We know you have questions and concerns about the furloughs and work-sharing aspect of our proposal. We urge you to look at our FAQ about negotiations and work-sharing to see if it answers your concerns. If it doesn’t, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In particular, we know many of you have heard that applying for unemployment is a mess. If we reach an agreement with management, whether you do or don’t apply would be entirely up to you. Applying will certainly be at least an inconvenience and possibly a time-consuming one. But we hope you agree with us that our sacrifice is worth it if we can with funding extensions for our grad workers, as well as a no-layoffs guarantee, PTL reappointments, and a timetable for getting our raises.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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