March 17, 2021
Dear President Wilson and Members of the Board of Governors:
We are writing to express our grave concerns regarding the restructuring and layoffs across the University in Information Technology (IT) and in Housing. The Coalition of Unions opposes any layoffs in these difficult times, objects to the manner in which decisions have been made, and is deeply worried about this approach by the Administration into the future.
Regarding the IT restructuring, we are astounded that the Administration has chosen this moment to restructure and eliminate nine positions, in the midst of a pandemic which has forced so many sacrifices already from our family, and which has actually increased Faculty, Staff and student technology needs. Essential personnel in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts (CFPCA), the Business School, and the Law School, have been moved out of their respective colleges and into the general C&IT pool, or, in a number of cases, have been laid off completely.
We are also alarmed at the flagrant failure by the Administration to follow the Professional and Administrative Union Local 1979 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which states in Article 14 section A, that “In the event of layoff, the University shall meet with the Union, on request, prior to the contemplated reduction to review how the reduction will be accomplished.” This Union has been requesting meetings with the Administration to discuss how the reduction will be accomplished, which has been an established past practice when a reduction in the workforce occurs. The Administration, however, has refused to consult with the Union prior to the actual layoffs to discuss the scope and to clarify how the CBA language is to be used when conducting layoffs. The Administration has instead moved unilaterally in implementing the layoffs, which has created a ripple effect throughout C&IT as members with greater seniority invoke ‘bumping rights.’ This has set in motion a chaotic chain of events, with at least 15 employees shifting from one job description to another, requiring retraining, and in some cases being forced into positions they are not qualified to fill. And contrary to the Administration’s “duplication of work effort” rationale for reducing staffing, a number of the positions that were eliminated in fact require unique skills and responsibilities essential to meeting the needs of Faculty, Staff and students.
Not only have the layoffs, reassignments and commitments to the CBA been problematic, so has the process itself. No Faculty, Staff and students were ever consulted as highly consequential decisions were made and implemented about their technology needs. Centralizing all IT into one place is not an effective way to deliver quality educational experiences, manage our diverse resources, or attend to the unique needs of various Faculty, Staff or student classes and projects. Hundreds of Mac computers and devices in the CFPCA are currently left without a Mac specialist; the Foreign Language Technology Center is now expected to operate without a director to oversee the creation of online and multimedia course content; tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of video, audio, lighting and other production equipment for students in the Department of Communication now has no one to manage it.
We are similarly very concerned about the five Staff positions that were eliminated in the dormitories and the fact that the work of these individuals has been shifted onto student “community directors.” These Staff employees were called back to work in the Fall, when they were told their work was so essential that they could not do it from home. They sacrificed their own health and safety for the benefit of all of us, and now, they are told they don’t need to be on campus at all since in fact that their positions have been eliminated.
Across the University, students are being employed to support or supplant the work of trained, experienced, IT and Housing personnel. These student assistants, Faculty, and Staff will eventually be forced to pick up work they are not qualified to do, to the detriment of us all.
The Coalition of Unions considers it unacceptable that in the middle of a pandemic, the University Administration has laid off 14 people from our C&IT and Housing family. We are dismayed at the way in which these processes were conducted, without consultation with anyone affected by the changes, with no explanation of how the work would be completed, and with blatant disregard for existing bargaining agreements. We are as troubled by these recent actions of the Administration as we are with what they portend for the future. This is not the way to deal with the lives of our family of employees, this is not the way to respect the educational and employment needs of our Faculty, Staff or students, and this is not the sort of relationship any Administration would want with its employee family going forward.
We call for the reinstatement of essential personnel, an end to reassignments and layoffs, and reject the rationale of cost-cutting in exchange for our colleagues’ work lives and our educational mission.
Gary Morris, chair, Coalition of Unions and President, P&A UAW Local 1979
P&A UAW Local 1979
Staff Association, UAW Local 2071
Union of Part Time Faculty (UPTF), Local 477
Graduate Employee Organizing Committee (GEOC)
Police Officers Labor Council WSUPD/POLC
UNITEHERE! Local 24
Teamsters Local 337
IBEW Local 58
WSU Skilled Trades
National Lawyer’s Guild (WSU NLG)