We’re writing to let you know about a victory for our health and safety won by staff and faculty in Rutgers University Libraries. By raising their voices immediately, they got University Librarian Krisellen Maloney to postpone and reconsider a dangerous plan to make library staff in New Brunswick return to their buildings full time on February 15, instead of the effective alternating scheduling our members developed there.
Vice President Maloney issued the order shortly after she was asked by library staff in Newark and Camden—who have been required since the fall to risk their health by working on-site five days a week—to adopt the dual-team scheduling used in New Brunswick. Our members rightly saw Maloney’s order as an insulting response to a legitimate proposal—and an attempt to silence those who raise concerns about their safety.
They didn’t stay silent. Dozens of our staff and faculty colleagues signed a letter of protest spelling out why Vice President Maloney’s decision would put their lives at risk—and why it was a direct violation of Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order requiring employers to “accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.” (As you’ll no doubt remember, the Governor’s order explicitly covers university libraries and computer labs because our Coalition of Rutgers Unions urged they be included after Vice President Maloney resisted closing the libraries when the pandemic first surged last March.) Our colleagues’ letter also makes the case for the dual-team scheduling they developed in New Brunswick—with one team working remotely and another on-site—to avoid a crowded workplace while effectively continuing operations.
Late on Thursday, Vice President Maloney wrote in an email that the return to full-time on-site work in New Brunswick would be postponed until she meets with staff. She has also committed to discussing a rotating schedule for Newark and Camden.
We want to congratulate our members who stood up to intimidation and put pressure on management to withdraw a reckless plan. We thank them for taking a step forward for all of us. We face many challenges ahead, but their swift and effective action shows how we can overcome them by fighting together.
Also: Starting today, members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are refusing a school district order to return to unsafe school buildings for hybrid instruction. We have sent a statement of solidarity from our union. Please show your support any way you can for your union colleagues in Philadelphia.
Christine, Todd, and Becky
Christine O’Connell, President, Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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