May 15, 2020: Takeaway: Our Coalition of Rutgers Unions met with management today and put forward a concrete plan with alternatives to layoffs. Please join the physical-distance safe car caravan action (details here) tomorrow, Saturday, May 16th at 12pm, as we take our demands directly to President Barchi outside the gates of his home on Busch campus.
Today, our Coalition of Rutgers Unions met with management to put forward a humane approach to the crisis, one that protects the most vulnerable and demands shared sacrifice from those at the top. Our plan will not only safeguard our own members as we explained on Monday, it will also put Rutgers on a strong financial footing to deal with any revenue shortfalls down the road. We hope that the administration will work cooperatively with us as we try to prevent layoffs. For instance, our co-workers who maintain our campuses face dire consequences with the possibility of many employees being laid off. Without pay and access to healthcare, this would spell disaster for them and their families.
Our unions have developed a fresh and painless approach to the layoffs and furloughs that the administration seems to think are inevitable. First, we expect management to take furloughs. Second, if we reach a favorable agreement with regard to a “work-sharing” program,furloughed employees making less than $192,920 a year will be able to replace all of their lost incomethrough unemployment benefits under a provision of the first economic relief bill passed by Congress in March.
This plan would save Rutgers close to $100 million in payroll costs (more than outright layoffs would save). Our calculation includes only those employees who would receive at least full salary replacement through the unemployment insurance system.
Furloughed employees are eligible to collect the state maximum unemployment benefit for the workdays they lose, as well as the full $600-a-week unemployment supplement authorized under the CARES Act. Anyone earning less than roughly $193,000 a year wouldn’t see any decline in income through these partial furloughs—many, in fact, would get a slight increase, thanks to the full federal booster. Our proposal goes to the end of July, which is when the federal $600 booster is scheduled to end. We are working with the NJ Department of Labor to create an easy and smooth process for claiming unemployment insurance. And we will ask management to hire some of our members to help everyone who needs help to file such paperwork.
New Jersey is one of 27 states (along with the District of Columbia) where work-sharing programs are supported through state unemployment systems. Work-sharing is not well known in the United States, but it is a very important component of the German economy, where it has successfully saved jobs during downturns.
The $600 federal unemployment supplement that makes work-sharing a viable alternative for us will expire at the end of July unless Congress extends it. The funding is not retroactive. Every day that management delays in implementing our proposal, we will lose the opportunity to save our university money. In return, we are asking for a percentage of that savings to be used for hardship funds. We call on management to recognize the opportunity this represents for all of us and adopt our plan without further delay. We have received some financial documents from management, and we have made transparency a fundamental requirement of any discussion.
None of us are disposable. Join us to send this message to President Barchi tomorrow, Saturday, May 16th. We will meet at 12pm in the Sears Parking lot across from the Labor Education Center, at 51 US Rte. 1, and we’ll head over together to President Barchi’s doorstep in a safe, physically distanced car-caravan protest with union, student, and community allies.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, VP, Rutgers AAUP-AFT