Takeaway: We’re writing to update you on the status of negotiations over our fiscal emergency demands. We know you have questions and concerns, particularly about work-sharing; we have some answers in our expanded FAQ.
A month ago, we asked management to come to the negotiating table and take up four demands related to last year’s fiscal emergency declaration: 1) a funding extension for graduate workers; 2) a no-layoffs guarantee in all our sibling unions through July 1, 2022; 3) return of PTL reappointments to Fall 2019 levels by Fall 2021; and 4) a timetable for our canceled raises to be paid.
In return, we offered a work-sharing program, under which our members would furlough for a half day a week through mid-March. Rutgers would save well over $10 million from our union alone and more from our colleagues in other Coalition unions, while most of our members would protect their full incomes through unemployment benefits, thanks to the $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement. In short, we said we would accept furloughs and the potential ordeal and uncertainty of the UI system if management agrees to measures that protect our most vulnerable members and colleagues.
Management has responded to our people-centered proposal, but at a snail’s pace. The clock is ticking on the expiration of the federal unemployment supplement that makes this proposal viable, but they are dragging their feet—and losing at least $1 million in savings every week they delay. If we haven’t updated you on the status of negotiations as often as we should, we’re sorry. Management hasn’t given us much to tell you.
The personal crises facing our members and colleagues are severe: Many grad students simply won’t be able to complete their programs without a funding extension. Members of other unions in our Coalition are still being laid off. Our PTL colleagues say that the number of PTLs reappointed for the Spring is even lower than in the Fall.
This is why we remain committed to pressing management to come to the table and work with our unions to protect the whole Rutgers community. The COVID relief legislation now being considered in Congress would extend the federal unemployment supplement, so if it passes, it may be possible to extend the end date on our proposal. But the window is closing. We hope President Holloway and his administration recognize the urgency of the moment.
In the meantime, we know you have questions and concerns about our proposal, especially the work-sharing aspect of it. We’re posting an updated and expanded version of the FAQ that we sent you in January. Please look it over and see if it answers some of your questions—and if doesn’t, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get back to you.
We know one big concern is the unemployment process. There’s no sugar-coating this: if you apply for unemployment, most of you will fully protect your income—and some of you will increase it—but applying for benefits will be at best an inconvenience and at worst a time-consuming bureaucratic mess. Non-unionized employees at Rutgers have been through this system, and we’re doing everything we can to learn from their experience. Our union has a strong enough contract that we could avoid furloughs for our members. But we believe the burdens of work-sharing are worth it if we can protect our grad workers with funding extensions and get job security for our PTL and staff colleagues.
We promise to keep you updated, and we thank you for your commitment to an approach that looks out for our whole Rutgers community.
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At the beginning of this week, we lost a giant of the 21st century labor movement: Karen Lewis, the President Emerita of the Chicago Teachers Union. If we are following a people-centered approach to protect the vulnerable, it is because we’ve taken a page out of a playbook written by Karen and her bold siblings of the CTU. We wrote a statement in tribute to Karen; please share it with your colleagues, friends, and community.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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Find the latest messages to members and union statements here.
Watch Todd’s video on the battles for our union today.