Takeaway: Rutgers management has made the cruel decision to lay off mental health professionals who serve some of the most vulnerable communities in our state—in the middle of a pandemic. Next week, some of these first responders, supported by members of other Rutgers unions, including ours, will participate in a solidarity action on the Douglass Campus in New Brunswick. We’re writing to ask you to consider how you can stand with the victims of Rutgers’ layoffs next week.
In late July, another group of union workers at Rutgers learned that management thinks they are disposable: 62 mental health professionals who counsel at-risk youth, adults, and families in Middlesex, Essex, and Camden Counties received layoff notices.
These members of Health Professional and Allied Employees Local 5094 and Communications Workers of America Local 1031 are among more than 1,000 union members (around 5 percent of all union members at Rutgers) who have lost jobs since the pandemic began. These particular layoffs have a cruel twist. Not only are these essential workers fearful that they will lose income and health care they and their families depend on, but the already vulnerable communities they work with will be harmed. As HPAE member Marsha Escalliere told MyCentralJersey.com, “How can you eliminate the lifeline that serves the community during this pandemic?”
The layoffs are also coming amid what our new Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway, at a town hall meeting with members of the Part-Time Lecturers Faculty Council, called a “national racial reckoning.” We agree with President Holloway that this reckoning is needed. So it is deeply disappointing that management of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care has chosen this same moment to balance its budget on the backs of workers who are overwhelmingly people of color, as are the people they serve.
“Rutgers is still on the best financial footing it has been in its history,” said HPAE Local 5094 co-president Justin O’Hea. “Yet it’s making draconian cuts to vital mental health services at a time when they’re needed most. They decided to make sweeping layoffs among workers who serve as first responders for mental health crises among children and adults in some of the hardest-hit communities in our state.”
The solidarity action is being planned for next week with the date, time, and further details to come. We’re asking those of you who feel able to participate in an action in New Brunswick to fill out this form; we will get in touch about the plans as they solidify. For those who can’t, we hope you can show your support. More than 1,000 members of our unions have lost their jobs. The fight to stop the next thousand layoffs—and reverse those that have taken place—begins now.
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.