AFSCME union prepares for potential layoffs

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

With all areas of the university expected to see layoffs this summer, workers under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union are preparing for potential losses.

Roughly 250 members of AFSCME work at Eastern, including building service workers, clerical/technical staff and food service workers.

Derek Light, the president of Eastern’s AFSCME chapter, said his union members understand that the university has a deficit and they hope administrators can see the big picture when making cuts.

“We’re hoping they take into account that we’ve already tightened our belt, and we’ve lost a lot of people over the years through attrition,” Light said. “We do a lot of the work that is behind the scenes a lot of people don’t know, and if they cut too many more, a lot of the services aren’t going to get done.”

Some services his union members provide to students include assisting them in the financial aid office, taking care of paperwork within the academic departments, cleaning buildings and preparing meals in the residence halls, Light said.

“Too much of a cut could really hinder the service we provide to the students themselves,” he said.

He also said student workers’ jobs could be a risk because of provisions in the State Universities Civil Service System.

“Before they lay off any fulltime people, they have to get rid of all student workers in our departments,” he said. “And they also have to get rid of all part-time temporary before they can actually lay any of us off.”

According to the SUCSS layoff procedures, employees must be laid off in order of class starting with temporary appointments and ending with status employees.

Light said to lay off one cook or one BSW, the university would have to get rid of all student help in those areas first.

“That’s going to hurt the students, which in turn hurts Eastern,” he said.

The email President David Glassman sent to employees Tuesday indicated that supervisors would let individuals know if they would be laid off starting in July.

Meanwhile, Light said the stewards in his union would be meeting with labor relations to discuss what the layoffs mean overall and to bargain over the effects of the layoffs.

“We’ll meet with them and say hey, maybe not this person,” he said. “We really want to sit down and figure out what’s best for the university, but also protect the union right in the contract.”

He said union representatives would be meeting with members as well to help them figure out what to do.

Getting moved to a lower position could save some workers with high seniority, while those with less seniority would be bumped out of their positions, Light said.

“They all have bumping rights. It depends on where they worked before, if they’ve gained hours,” he said. “They may get laid off from one position but may stay at Eastern in a different position if they have seniority hours banked there.”

Light said he understands Glassman inherited budget troubles from years past and he is not coming into the university wanting to make cuts.

“We want to work with him the best we can to figure out what’s best for us,” he said. “But our union members provide a huge service to this university, and a lot of the stuff wouldn’t get done without our people.”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].