Taken from The Daily Targum
Members of the Rutgers community, including students, faculty, staff and New Brunswick residents, held a protest on Saturday calling on the University to reverse layoffs, implement tuition reductions amid the pandemic, stop the sale of the Lincoln Annex School and do more to promote racial and climate justice at Rutgers.
Todd Wolfson, president of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), said the Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) originally discussed planning a protest to address the layoffs, but realized that students and community members were making important demands about a variety of issues as the semester began.
This led to a collaboration between the unions and multiple other organizations for planning the event.
“These are simple things that a progressive state University must stand for,” he said. “The students, faculty, staff and the community are aligned on it, and we are going to show (University) President (Jonathan) Holloway, we’re going to show the leadership of the University and we’re going to show our brothers and sisters throughout the University and the community what we stand for, and we’re going to ask them to join us.”
Wolfson said organizers had six planning meetings and other logistical meetings to prepare for the event, which required masks and social distancing. He said approximately 50 people attended the initial planning meeting and approximately 30 organizations were involved in the process.
CRU, which consists of 19 unions representing more than 20,000 employees, brought attention to the ongoing layoffs at the University. Approximately 1,000 people were laid off since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Wolfson said.
The majority of these layoffs affected workers in Dining Services, in addition to a number of part-time lecturers and workers in other sectors around the University.
Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators — American Federation of Teachers said her union lost workers in Dining Services and from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
She said dining hall workers are normally viewed as essential workers and have to come in throughout various crises at the University.
“Any bad weather, they’re here to keep the dining halls open to serve our students,” she said. “And at first opportunity, they were all of a sudden not that essential anymore.”
Justin O’Hea and Ryan Novosielski, co-presidents of Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) Local 5094, said the union represents a variety of groups in healthcare and other sectors of the University.
Novosielski said the majority of layoffs within their union affected Children’s Mobile Response and Stabilization Services, which provides mental health services and crisis intervention for children, especially those in foster care.
Other layoffs affected the Adult Acute Partial Hospital Program, which O’Hea said helps at-risk adults in the community with serious mental health or addiction issues.
Novosielski said most people agree that mental health services are even more necessary during the pandemic, yet funding for these services within the University and at the state level is being cut.
“When the caseloads go up, the ability for people to keep track of every person as well and know what’s going on with cases has decreased,” he said.