NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Union leaders representing thousands of Rutgers faculty and staff are organizing a car caravan protest that will converge on university President Robert Barchi’s home in Piscataway.
Saturday’s protest is being called to draw attention to the fact that many of Rutgers’ health care employees are working without proper personal protection equipment, according to a press release from Rutgers AAUP-AFT Senior Organizer Sherry Wolf.
It is also being organized to protest the university’s decision to lay off hundreds of part-time lecturers (PTL), according to the release.
The caravan is gathering in the parking lot of the PoppaRich Edison at noon and proceed to Old Queens Gate at the corner of Somerset Avenue and George Street. Then it will move toward Barchi’s home.
Sabrina Brown-Oliver, vice president of HPAE Local 5089, a union representing registered nurses in the state prison system employed directly by Rutgers University Correctional Health Care (UCHC), said in the press release that there is a widespread shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE).
"Our members were issued one N95 respirator and were instructed to reuse it indefinitely,” she said. “Such an extreme reuse practice is not acceptable anywhere and creates greater exposure to staff and inmates. We need PPE now.”
According to the press release, a memo sent to academic departments calling for a 20% cut to part-time lecturers, 3,000 of whom collectively cost just 1% of Rutgers' $4.6 billion annual budget and teach more than a third of classes, has “set off a firestorm of rage and organizing among adjunct faculty.”
"You can't save a university by purging its teachers and cutting its courses,” said part-time lecturer David Winters, vice president of the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT. “By the time Barchi's done saving Rutgers, there won't be anything left.”
According to a communication that was sent to nearly 20,000 unionized employees at Rutgers this week, about 250 members of the university’s senior management make an annual salary of $250,000 or earn about $80 million annually combined.
“The fact that it is these same managers who are making decisions to deprive those who barely earn a living is a real problem,” the message said.
"President Barchi has directed the implementation of a hiring freeze and the suspension of certain personnel transactions," Rutgers spokesperson Dory Devlin told TAPinto New Brunswick. "We are planning for fall 2020 but until registration is completed, we will not know how many part-time lecturers, who are hired on a semester-by-semester basis, we will need. No PTLs have been laid off."
The press release also mentions that the caravan protest is being created to point out that the so-called Saliva Test developed by Rutgers professor on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus that will allow for the testing of 10,000 residents a day for COVID-19 starting next week is not being offered to the city’s residents.
Community activists representing immigrant workers facing mass job losses and no access to healthcare “in the cities where Rutgers runs health facilities and has the capacity to extend care to all” are expected to join the protest.
PoppaRich Edison restaurant is located at 1711 Lincoln Highway.