Rutgers: No Decisions About Us, Without Us (April 23, 2020)
Our Coalition of Rutgers Unions, representing 20,000 unionized employees, will not allow the Rutgers administration to turn this tragedy into a disaster for the people who make Rutgers work. We are appalled by the weeks-long delay in receiving personal protective equipment. We are infuriated by the announced and threatened layoffs of many of the lowest-paid employees, and we are dismayed by the lack of transparency about Rutgers’ true financial condition. As the people who make Rutgers work, even during a pandemic, our unions must have a critical role in shepherding this institution through the crisis. The voices of workers must be centered if we are to make urgent health, safety, and financial decisions that impact millions throughout the state of New Jersey.
The truth is without our labor, Rutgers cannot function. We run communications and administration, pick up trash, deliver mail, and clean facilities. We care for patients, and support, teach, mentor, and assist tens of thousands of students. We conduct some of the leading scientific research in dozens of fields, including the fight against COVID-19. Our voices matter in this current crisis and for the future well-being of this university.
The immediate choice is stark: Rutgers can either lead with values that put human safety, security, and well-being at the center of its universe or it can willfully go down the path of corporate-driven austerity—a model that protects the elite and throws the rest of us to the wolves. Instead of Rutgers’ eat-what-you-kill Responsibility Center Management budgeting, we demand People-Centered Management and we call on the University to put our people first!
Every budget is a statement of priorities and values. Rutgers entered this crisis with the largest subsidy of hundreds of millions of dollars from the academic mission to athletics and the greatest management bloat in the Big Ten. Now, President Barchi plans to lay off 20% of adjunct faculty, or 600 teachers. The total adjunct workforce of 3,000 teach more than 30% of all classes and collectively earn less than 1% of Rutgers’ budget. Further, he leaves another 1,600 employees without union contracts at all. This kind of austerity—maximum pain for minimum gain—makes no sense. Meanwhile, about 250 in senior management continue to take home more than $250,000 each for an annual cost of $80 million. The fact that it is these same managers who are making decisions to deprive those who barely earn a living is a real problem. It mimics the injustices we are seeing at the national level with massive bailouts for large corporations and peanuts for those actually doing the work.
It is time to reverse this intolerable status quo. Here’s what our Coalition of Rutgers Unions is demanding:
- Secure urgently needed PPE for Rutgers employees
- No layoffs
- Settlement of all outstanding union contracts
- Access to health care for all Rutgers workers, including part-timers
- Full transparency of Rutgers’ finances and crisis plans
- Carry over all earned vacation and sick time
- Union involvement in all job continuity and work reassignment decisions
One thing is clear: Rutgers will not emerge as a healthy institution from this crisis if management keeps making decisions that harm the fundamental mission of the university. We need an honest accounting of the university’s $4.6 billion a year budget, and we need an honest accounting of the university’s approximately $1.9 billion in reserves, including unrestricted reserves of nearly $600 million.
Because no sober decisions can be made about our financial priorities without this information, our Coalition is hosting our own Open the Books event on Friday, May 1st, at 5pm on Zoom and it will be livestreamed and recorded, so that we can hear from our own accounting experts on Rutgers’ reported numbers.
Open the Books
May 1, 2020 05:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting