Coalition Press Statement: June 5, 2020
Coalition of 19 Unions Demands Administration Accountability to the Community
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Members from a coalition of unions at Rutgers University spoke out against the administration’s cruel policy of layoffs and cutbacks to balance the budget during the COVID-19 crisis at a virtual press conference held Thursday, June 4.
The press conference featured renowned Rutgers faculty member Donna Murch; officers from unions in the coalition, which represents 20,000 faculty, staff, and health care professionals; and employees and students who will have their lives upended by the university’s decision to choose layoffs over the unions’ people-centered approach to keep the community whole.
At a moment of health and economic crises—and in the midst of a nationwide uprising against racism and poverty—the administration is choosing to fire some of the most vulnerable campus workers, disproportionately people of color, rather than agree to the unions’ proposal for a humane approach, including their plan for work-sharing furloughs through July that would save jobs and protect the income of all members while saving the university as much as $100 million.
After the press conference, leaders of two AFSCME locals who represent staff on campus indicated that they had reached an agreement with the university to accept furloughs in exchange for rescinding some 400 layoff notices due to go out shortly.
“We’re happy that AFSCME avoided the 400-plus layoffs, and we appreciate the leadership of Daniel Duffy and other AFSCME leaders in achieving this,” said Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate workers. “And we’re glad the administration saw the light and has adopted some elements of our proposals to prevent layoffs and safeguard people’s health insurance.
“But there is still critical work to be done. Some 300 adjunct faculty have been told they won’t be rehired this fall. Graduate workers face an uncertain future if the administration doesn’t honor our call that their funding packages be extended for a year. Teamsters and members of URA-AFT still face mass layoff threats, and 620 seasonal employees who are members of AFSCME have lost their guarantee of a job to return to this fall. We plan to keep mobilizing our members to fight for all of our community.”
At the press conference, Donna Murch, an associate professor of history and Executive Council member of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, drew attention to the fact that the administration has been threatening layoffs of “dining hall workers, custodial workers, maintenance workers. These are the people who keep us safe; these are people who are even more needed now. These are essential workers.”
Murch concluded by asking that “[we] think really deeply about what this means—that at a moment of national and international mourning about the death of black, brown, and indigenous people, our university has chosen to balance its budget on the backs of precisely those people in New Jersey.”
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Read the Coalition of Rutgers Unions press statement on the layoffs.
Read an op-ed article by Amy Higer, president of the Part-Time Lecturer Faculty Chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
Read an op-ed article by Rebecca Givan, vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT.