Yesterday, legislation for this year’s budget was introduced in the New Jersey state legislature—and it fully reverses threatened cuts to higher education and returns Rutgers to pre-pandemic funding levels for the 2020–21 fiscal year! This is a huge victory for Rutgers faculty, staff, and students, and it’s due to the organizing and advocacy of our unions, students and alumni, and our community partners standing together to oppose the state budget being balanced on our backs.
We’ve eliminated another administration excuse for laying off our colleagues and forcing the vulnerable to bear the brunt of the crisis since last spring. We were told from the start of the pandemic that deep cuts in state appropriations were inevitable, despite unprecedented aid for higher education contained in the federal government’s CARES Act, including more than $100 million earmarked specifically for Rutgers. By April, ex-President Barchi was declaring that Rutgers would suffer a $200 million budget shortfall for the 2019–20 school year, with worse to come this year.
Fortunately, our union and our allies didn’t take austerity for an answer. The Coalition of Rutgers Unions came together to develop a people-centered approach to the crisis that would prevent layoffs and protect the vulnerable. We did management’s math homework for them and proposed a work-sharing program that would have protected the jobs, health benefits, and incomes of every employee while saving the university more than $100 million.
We also began working intensively with our allies and elected representatives to oppose the plans to slash tens of millions from state appropriations for Rutgers. The Coalition’s Legislative Committee, with representatives from over a dozen unions, went into overdrive, promoting a humane alternative based on progressive taxation, state borrowing, and full funding of our priorities.
The austerity managers in the administration accepted these destructive cuts and built them into their budget projections, but we refused to. And now—thanks to everyone who made a phone call, sent an email, wrote a letter, met with state officials, or simply stood together with us to show Rutgers management and political leaders that #WeRNotDisposable—we have a full restoration of funding.
Now it’s time to demand that Rutgers management turn away from cuts and layoffs and rescind their declaration of a “fiscal emergency.” Another excuse for austerity has been dispelled. The administration wants us to believe that cutbacks on campus are as inevitable as the state funding cuts were supposed to be. But we’ve proved them wrong—and we’ll do it again.
One way to celebrate this victory is to join the #March4RLivesRJobsRSchools this Saturday at 3 p.m. in New Brunswick. We’ll gather in front of Lincoln Annex School at 165 Somerset for a safe, socially distanced, masked march through downtown to raise our demands: stop the layoffs, save Lincoln Annex, reduce tuition and fees, stand for racial equity and climate justice, and settle all union contracts. This action might be taking place in New Brunswick, but it represents challenges throughout New Jersey and across the country. We encourage all members to join in.
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.
Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.