Takeaway: Over 5,000 have viewed the powerful live-streamed press conference organized by the Coalition of Rutgers Unions (watch at Facebook or YouTube) that called out the cruelty of the Rutgers administration in laying off the most vulnerable campus workers. We are glad that our public pressure as a coalition of 19 local unions supported two of our AFSCME locals in achieving an agreement to stop 450 layoffs. But there are more battles ahead. We remain committed to fighting for the vulnerable, including other Rutgers workers under the threat of layoffs, protecting our grads through a one-year extension, rescinding the PTL layoffs, and challenging management as it threatens to eliminate our July 1st raises by declaring a fiscal emergency. Please save Wednesday night, June 10th, for a town hall meeting for an update on management’s posture and an opportunity to collectively discuss what we need to do to challenge them.
Yesterday, we gathered our Coalition of Rutgers Unions for a live-streamed press conference that showed the human toll of the university’s threatened layoffs of more than 1,000 of the most vulnerable workers on campus. Children of workers about to be laid off spoke powerfully about the impact on their lives that these layoffs will have. If you weren’t able to watch the livestream, we hope you’ll watch it today on Facebook or YouTube and add yourself to over 5,000 people who have watched it so far. It’s an hour well spent in witnessing the very best of the union movement we’re a part of here at Rutgers.
At the same time as our event unfolded, and with advance notice to the Coalition, both AFSCME local unions met with the Rutgers administration to reach an agreement similar to our Coalition’s work-share proposal to avoid 450 member layoffs, keep our staff colleagues and their families on health benefits, and keep their children enrolled as our students through continued tuition remission benefits. These are critically important values of our Coalition work, and we’re glad that we were able to support our union sisters and brothers in AFSCME at this difficult time through our collective public action at yesterday’s event. The event received positive media coverage (see this article at NJ.com) and no doubt added pressure on management to work with our AFSCME colleagues.
Chaired by URA-AFT President Christine O’Connell, the presentations at the press conference featured daughters of two dining workers who would be laid off if this latest round of firings went through. These ambitious and courageous young women offered heartbreaking testimonials of how their own futures are in doubt because they rely on their parents’ tuition remission benefit to attend our university. They also discussed the pain they feel for the people who raised them and who love Rutgers and their jobs. The Barchi administration is treating our colleagues as disposable.
This is unconscionable behavior—and incredibly, as our Executive Council member Donna Murch emphasized, it is coming in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, a wrenching economic slump, and a nationwide rebellion against the very conditions that disproportionately afflict the black and brown communities who will be hardest hit by the layoffs at Rutgers.
Clearly, we must prepare for a fight this summer and fall. The administration has disregarded the overall plan that the unions put together to protect our members, their families, and our communities and to save the university more than $100 million through a work-sharing furlough program that would fully protect our incomes (if you haven’t yet read through the Frequently Asked Questions about the program, you’ll find them here).
We did management’s homework for them. And in return, they are walking away from the Coalition table and are trying to fracture our coalition. With layoff threats still looming for other members of the Coalition unions, management continues to reject the savings they could have right now, pursuing instead a strategy that could save them a third of this amount over a longer period of time. We believe that they are acting on advice they have received from the notorious anti-union law firm Jackson Lewis, which Rutgers has employed. Our OPRA records show that Rutgers has spent close to $2 million already on this firm.
Their tactics won’t work. Our Coalition remains strong, and we are heartened by our joint strength as we face these attacks together. We support the efforts of each of our sister unions in this coalition as they try to secure the best deal they can with management. We will not accept an agreement unless it includes the rescinding of all layoffs, including PTLs; ensures that grads are protected through a one-year funding extension; includes financial support for students not covered by Federal CARES funding; and ensures that our contract is fully enforced.
It is time to prepare. We need your collective input on what to do next. We are planning a town hall for Wednesday night, June 10; please mark the date on your calendar (more details to come). We will fully update all of you on everything we’ve heard from management—including if they are declaring a fiscal emergency and plans for re-opening the campus. One of our next critical battles is to ensure that a people-centered approach is applied to Rutgers’ reopening plan. Financial health should not trump human health as our campuses reopen.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, VP, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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