NEW BRUNSWICK – At a rally this afternoon, HPAE members and labor allies railed against union busting by Rutgers for turning public union jobs over to a private corporation.
“We are also calling on Rutgers to cease outsourcing union work, stop replacing union workers with nonunion workers, stop illegal subcontracting and privatizing public work,” HPAE President Debbie White, RN, told the crowd gathered CINJ at 195 Little Albany St, New Brunswick today. “Rutgers, stop union busting!”
Union workers fed up with Rutgers using its partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health for union busting—with devastating consequences for the university’s union-contracted workforces, including nurses at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ)— expressed their outrage at Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick.
In a pattern other unions are noticing since the state university of New Jersey partnered with RWJBH, Rutgers has been transitioning union-contracted work to its private partner’s non-union workforce.
White said unions have repeatedly asked Rutgers not only to stop union-busting, but to also provide data showing they’re not doing so. The university has played games, dragged their feet and, ultimately, refused to provide the data, she added.
“We selected this location, CINJ, because here is where we have found some of the clearest evidence showing that Rutgers is handing over our union jobs to a private corporation,” White said. “Now, our members have identified recently-hired non-union RWJBH employees doing jobs their union colleagues once did.
HPAE is part of a coalition that includes other Rutgers labor unions, community organizations and student and faculty groups that have issues with the way that Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, behaves as a public institution and how it makes decisions that affect services in communities the coalitions care about and serve.
New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charlie Wowkanech (pictured, above) said he’s been disappointed in how Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway has responded to the issue, especially after Gov. Phil Murphy urged him to bring all parties together to negotiate a memorandum of understanding so union jobs are not being phased out at the state University of New Jersey.
“This has been going on for over two years now and the erosion of union-contracted jobs continues apace at Rutgers,” Wowkanech said. “I can only conclude that Mr. Holloway and Rutgers’ leaders have no interest in saving these union jobs. Gov. Murphy needs to show our members that he would not stand by for union busting and allow thousands of union jobs to be phased out.”
The labor leader told InsiderNJ that he knows the governor is personally aware of the situation and hopes he responds to the union’s fair expectations.
The union that represents physicians at Rutgers, the American Association of University Professors-Biological and Health Sciences New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ), has been raising the alarm since at least this summer. AAUP-BHSNJ Executive Director Diomedes Tsitouras said what Rutgers is doing is union-busting, pure and simple.
“We are joining in solidarity with HPAE members at this rally because what is happening to their members is also happening to our members,” Tsitouras said. “The reality of this unholy alliance by Rutgers, a public institution, with a private corporation potentially undermines most of the thousands of union jobs currently held by doctors, nurses, and other health care workers at the university.”
HPAE Local 5094 Co-President Justin O’Hea said it is demoralizing to constantly see full-time Rutgers employee positions belonging to HPAE members being phased out and turned into RWJBarnabas Health positions, without the protection of HPAE as their union.
“And, when we point this out to Rutgers and fight them on it, the State University of New Jersey plays dumb,” O’Hea told the crowd at the rally. ” ‘We don’t know what you’re talking about,’ they tell us. You’re not fooling anyone, Rutgers! You’re not fooling us, Chancellor Brian Strom! Gov. Murphy, why are you standing on the sidelines while the State University of New Jersey is taking public union jobs and turning them over to a private corporation?”
Rutgers issued a statement in response to the rally.