Takeaway: We pledge to stand together to fight for our rights and well-being in this crisis. Whether you are a member, a student, a staff worker at Rutgers, or a community member, we are all in this together. Here we outline what we are doing and lay out a vision for what we want Rutgers to become. We will be holding a Zoom Town Hall Tuesday, March 31st, 4-5pm, Zoom have been sent to all members, please email [email protected] if you still need them.
We live in truly surreal times. The world we have known has been transformed by a crisis that is affecting each and every one of us in different ways. We write to share some recent developments in the work of our union to ensure that we come together now in ways that reflect our values of solidarity, decency, and respect for working people. Last week, we were forced to confront the administration in order to safeguard our members. After a prolonged fight, which included workers refusing to go in and an executive order we helped secure from the governor, we succeeded in closing the libraries and making sure our members and all workers, as well as students, were safely at home during this health crisis.
It was a hard-won victory for our librarians and staff! It is truly unfortunate that yet again we had to fight the Barchi administration to protect our community. While the administration has taken some measures in response to COVID-19, we were appalled at the failure of leadership on some key issues. President Barchi was tone-deaf to the very real concerns of our members, who were being kept in workplaces that could expose them to COVID-19. Now we are hearing from IT colleagues, who are not unionized, that many of them are working several people to a room on-site in Rutgers buildings for long hours, without any extra cleaning of contact points. This is hard to understand given the severity of this pandemic, the prevailing advice of health experts and orders from Governor Murphy.
As a union we are determining next steps to create the university we need in a crisis. In the interim, we call on President Barchi to grasp and respect our humanity, and remember that we must generously adapt our standards and routines for all who are attending to health problems, death, isolation, job loss, economic uncertainty and all other collateral results of the emergency we are in.
This is a turning point for our society. A crisis not only lays bare the flaws of our existing system but allows us to refashion and reimagine collectively who we are and what we can be. We thank all of you who have responded to our survey. We are working to develop a vision of what Rutgers can be and invite you to help us shape this future together. At core, we strive to build a community of educators committed to the overall well-being of our students and the public. This means, among other things, being attentive to the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized, being compassionate towards and grateful for all who work at Rutgers and in our communities who keep us healthy and provide for our basic needs, and working towards the collective good.
These values are our compass. They will guide us as we fight to lay a foundation for OUR Rutgers. In the short term, we are working hard to collect and address the numerous issues that arise as a result of the pandemic. Here are some issues we are committed to working on:
- Making sure our members are safe and understand their right to refuse work under unsafe conditions during the pandemic;
- Supporting the difficult transition to online teaching and learning for faculty and students;
- Making sure all students have a safe place to stay and are not food insecure in this crisis;
- Supporting our international students in a moment of great uncertainty;
- Making sure graduate students can pause or suspend their funding packages due to the crisis;
- Fighting for an expanded hardship fund for both undergraduate and graduate students;
- Supporting student mutual aid initiatives like Rutgers Mutual Aid;
- Fighting for paid sick leave for all workers, including student workers;
- Supporting the PTL demand for healthcare during this pandemic;
- Supporting frontline healthcare workers on campus, from doctors and nurses to techs, and making sure they have the protective equipment they need as well as other resources;
- Supporting IT workers by minimizing on-site work to the most urgent locations, following COVID-19 cleaning guidelines and allowing all other services to be remote only;
- Defending the right to safe working conditions and the right to organize for all of our unrepresented colleagues who are most vulnerable right now;
- Securing and defending federal research funding;
- Supporting the needs of homeless people in our communities by contributing to New Brunswick’s SHILO and beyond; and
- Supporting calls for rent amnesty during the pandemic in our communities;
- Supporting New Labor’s effort to raise funds that will prioritize undocumented members who are sick and/or will not receive federal support while unemployed or underemployed.
We will continue to provide updates as we work hard to ensure your safety and the safety of our whole community. We will hold a town hall style Zoom meeting to answer questions that you may have (to the extent that we are able to do so) and hear your concerns, Tuesday, March 31st, 4-5pm, Zoom details below. We will be also be holding future Zoom meetings for educational events, socializing and co-working so that we can support each other during this time of isolation. Please be sure to check our website regularly for updates, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter/Instagram at @RUaaup.
Stay healthy and safe,
Todd and Becky