NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Members from a coalition of 19 unions at Rutgers are planning to host a virtual news conference this afternoon to condemn staff cutbacks they categorize as “cruel.”

Some of those workers who have received layoff notices will speak at the meeting that will be hosted via Zoom at 3 p.m. and livestreamed on social media.

Rutgers faculty members Naomi Klein and Donna Murch, officers from unions in the coalition representing 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” are scheduled to participate in the news conference, according to a press release distributed by the Coalition of Rutgers Unions.

Sign Up for New Brunswick Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The coalition distributed a press release on Wednesday saying that the university could lay off some 500 dining, maintenance, custodial and public safety workers.

Another 600 dining hall workers  who are typically furloughed during the summer may not have jobs this fall, according to the coalition.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi said at the Board of Governors meeting in April that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the university about $200 million in lost revenue this quarter

Among other factors, a drop in clinical revenues and an expected decline in enrollment will create “challenging losses in the coming fiscal year,” Barchi said.

Union leaders say the administration is choosing to fire “the most vulnerable campus workers, disproportionately people of color,” rather than agree to the unions’ proposal for a humane approach, including a 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.

“Rutgers management has terminated our Memorandum of Understanding, having only put one idea on the table in the past month: a two-year suspension of our July 1 raises,” said Todd Wolfson, president of AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate employees. “Meanwhile, they have begun to lay off over a thousand of our coworkers who are disproportionately brown and black."

A spokesperson for the university told TAPinto New Brunswick that the school is in the process of negotiating a furlough program with the Teamsters and AFSCME in the hopes of saving jobs and ultimately avoiding the layoffs in custodial, groundskeeping, public safety and maintenance. 

With respect to the 10-month food service workers, “it is just impossible, at this point, to guarantee the traditional return to work for them because we don’t yet know the status of the dining halls.”