Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union had their hands full in regards to the recent layoffs this summer.
Derek Light, a building service worker and president of AFSCME, said the role of the union representatives is to sit with employees in the union during the layoff process.
“We make sure they understand their rights, benefits, answer questions they might have,” he said.
Light said the Human Resources department of Eastern has been helpful when it comes to those who have been laid off.
Some have the opportunity to come back and rejoin Eastern’s staff in a different position.
Light said this will happen if the budget turns around and if more students are enrolled.
Employees are also potentially able to comeback if they have a rehire card and open positions are available because of others retiring or leaving.
“When interviewing for a position, applicants take a test, come in for an interview, then get a card saying, ‘This is a position we’re hiring for,’” Light said.
Many of those who are being laid off are leaving in good standing, making it easier for them to get other jobs they might apply for.
“Some might come back into work, we hope it’s soon,” Light said. “We hope valuable employees will be able to come back.”
Light said the university has been giving assistance to those who need it.
“Eastern is helping those who have been laid off in any way they can,” Light said. “I’m sure all the people getting laid off are getting good recommendations.”
Many of the people in the union Light works with have questions regarding the layoffs.
“The biggest question now is how many people are being laid off,” he said. “People want to know, ‘What’s happening, how will this affect me?’”
Light said he knew President David Glassman understood the situation.
“It’s unfortunate; it’s unfair,” Light said. “But we’re doing everything to help out employees.”
He said Glassman has had reason to keep certain information about the layoffs private.
“I understand why,” Light said. “He wanted the employees to find out first, and there are a lot of rumors going around on campus. He just wants to talk to the individuals affected first so they find out what’s happening.”
He said the latest email sent about the layoffs cleared things up a bit.
“At least now they kind of know what’s going to happen.” Light said. “But people still want to know, are we still going to get things done with a lot less employees? Eastern is losing a lot of valuable, knowledgeable employees.”
Something less urgent but still important to many employees is how the layoffs are going to affect the Eastern community as a whole.
“People want to know about their friends, are they going to lose their jobs?” Light said. “Eastern is a great community, with a lot of friends.”
He said it was nerve-wracking be in the room when people he has known for a long time were put in such a tense situation.
“I’ve known some of these people for several years,” Light said. “To hear they are being laid off, with no place to go, it’s kind of hard. It’s hard to sit there with them and listen to them losing their livelihoods.”
Light said the layoffs affect employees greatly.
“This is their livelihood, this is their paychecks, their lives,” he said. “They have to take this into account. The university is losing a lot of valuable employees.”
Patty Shonk, the chief union steward of AFSCME and a senior library specialist, said her job as a union representative is to provide support and answer questions.
Shonk has been in the room with some of the employees who have been laid off. She said it could sometimes be hard to be in the room as they are told the news.
“I feel so bad for these people,” Shonk said. “It breaks their hearts.”
Light said he had hope that Eastern as a community could pull things together.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]