Takeaway: Please be ready to show your support for racial justice in the coming days. And save this date: we will hold an all-member Town Hall meeting on Thursday, September 3, at 7 p.m.; you can RSVP by clicking here.
Our union stands in solidarity with the calls to action for justice following the cold-blooded police shooting of Jacob Blake and the murder of two antiracist protesters by a right-wing militia member. These atrocities dramatize, once again, the inequities endured by black people and other populations of color. As James Baldwin taught us, “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It is up to all of us to confront injustice and take action.
Taking their inspiration from professional athletes, a group of scholars have called for academic workers to take action, alongside students, campus staff, and the communities we serve, on September 8–9. We are currently in communication with student organizations, staff unions, and other organizations. Our union is committed to supporting protests and actions on the days following Labor Day, and we’re working now to shape a common approach.
As we demonstrate in the coming days, we must commit ourselves to furthering this historic reckoning with racial violence and structural inequality. Closer to home, there must also be a reckoning at Rutgers, and those who lead this university must be held to account for policies and actions they are taking even as we write. Currently, black faculty compose little more than 4 percent of the total professoriate, despite composing over 10 percent of New Jersey’s population. Their numbers have steadily dwindled over the past three decades. The disparities extend beyond academic positions to the larger 30,000-strong workforce of our school. The most recent victims of the layoff threats at Rutgers are dozens of mental health professionals, overwhelmingly people of color, who counsel at-risk youth, adults, and families in some of the most under-resourced communities in New Jersey.
The brunt of the crisis caused by the pandemic has been borne by the most vulnerable, and that is no less true at Rutgers. Though the university remains, according to the Board of Governors, on “its strongest financial footing in recent history,” more than 1,000 union members, disproportionately people of color, have been laid off, and management is threatening worse to come. In addition to canceling our July 1 merit raises, management failed to implement the groundbreaking pay equity program won in our last contract. Rutgers is a prime force in a “development” plan to demolish Lincoln Annex School in downtown New Brunswick and send its overwhelmingly Latinx student body to learn in aa converted warehouse in a contaminated post-industrial section of town.
So when we take action after Labor Day, we will be demanding justice for Jacob Blake, Breonna Tayor, George Floyd, and the 4,000 people who have been killed by police since the Ferguson protests. This struggle is also tied to the current economic crisis, in which public-sector job losses have a disproportionate impact on workers of color. We will demand an end to Rutgers’ layoffs that have hit hard in the majority minority cities where our campuses are located. We will demand equal pay for equal work, in line with our 2018 contract, which contained special protection against race and gender discrimination. We will also insist that Lincoln Annex be saved. Nothing will change, at Rutgers or around the United States, until we confront these stark realities.
With the fall semester beginning next week, we have our work cut out for us. We need the input and participation of all of you to meet the urgent challenges we face. Please be ready to show your support for racial justice. And save this date: we will hold an all-member Town Hall meeting on Thursday, September 3, at 7 p.m. to discuss what lies ahead; you can RSVP by clicking here.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rutgers AAUP-AFT Facebook page: https://facebook.com/RUaaup/
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @ruaaup
Find the latest messages to members and union statements here.
Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.