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Union updates — week of 3/29/2020

1.               Our #1 concern right now is still safety:

    • Are all non-essential staff now working from home?
    • Are essential staff working at the workplace only for minimal shifts and only for critical operations (and working from home for the non-critical tasks when practicable according Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107)?
    • When in the workplace, are essential staff provided proper disinfecting supplies, protective equipment and distancing measures that adhere to Executive Order 107?

If you or a colleague cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions, please report a violation to the State of New Jersey and notify us at immediately. Rutgers has failed to provide us with a comprehensive list of all staff who are deemed “essential” and performing critical operations in the workplace. Therefore, we depend on you to self-report any instance of a violation immediately.

2.               Coronavirus cases at Rutgers

Executive VP, Tony Calcado, informed us that no announcements will be made about new instances of positive virus cases in Rutgers buildings. We find this to be very irresponsible, and it puts the community’s safety at risk. It also may prevent you from applying for COVID-19 paid leave and seeking medical guidance. Again, we depend on members informing us of new cases as soon as possible.

3.               Emerging essential staff issues

Most of our essential staff are located in IPO, Dining and Residence Life, and in critical research labs. There are currently about three thousand students still housed on campus who have no other place to go. We received word that other students are now being allowed to come back onto campus to collect personal items that were left behind. We are concerned about how this affects our union members who work in Residence Life and Housing. It should be done with a reduced schedule and proper safety protocols for entering buildings after/with students. We are also receiving reports that staff who are managed by our members in IPO have already begun testing positive for the virus. We advise our members to refer these workers and yourselves immediately to the Occupational Health Department at Rutgers and to apply for COVID-19 paid leave.

4.               Timesheets, telework and COVID-19 paid leave

Rutgers’ expansion of telework and special paid leave allows for a mixture of safety, job continuity and sustained income—our most important goals. This is a good thing. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply. Rutgers must still negotiate with us about its approval processes, documentation requirements, and similar rules that are unfair and burdensome. Until then, see our best practices for how to utilize these programs and fill out timesheets. We encourage you to combine telework with paid leave to arrange a reduced or alternate schedule with your supervisor.

5.               COVID-19 issue survey

By now you should have received an online survey via email. Please fill it out right away if you have not yet done so. If you did not receive it, please email us at to request the link.

6.               Negotiating with Rutgers

We are meeting with Vivian Fernandez, Tony Calcado and other Rutgers officials on a weekly basis along with other representatives from other Rutgers unions. We will provide you with updates as we go along. We intend to negotiate over things like pay for essential staff, vacation carryover rules, new employee orientation, processing contractual grievances, and the many other working conditions that have been impacted or may be impacted as a result of the pandemic and Rutgers’ handling of it thus far.

When we work together, we can win!

By order of Governor Phil Murphy, all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities are closed.  

This order went into effect on March 20, 2020 at 8pm.

Thank you for your continued advocacy on behalf of yourselves and your colleagues. Designated non-essential library staff were directed to continue to come to work and operate as business as usual and putting their lives at risk. With pressure put on administration with the Rutgers Coalition of Unions, we have increased protections for the health of staff and their families.

This is when solidarity matters most. When members work together for common goals, we make things happen! Union members have power to enact changes in our working conditions. If you’re not a member yet, please join now.

In Solidarity, Christine

Please note our new address:
URA-AFT, 75 Raritan Ave. Suite 255
Highland Park, New Jersey 08904

We can still be reached by phone at 732–745-0300, or email at

Join the URA now.

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Staff deserve to be safe from COVID-19

Protect Health Take Action
Yesterday we received an email from Dr. Barchi sharing the University’s operating status as they respond to the COVID-19 health crisis. This latest communication from management shows their disrespect for URA staff that continues to work every day to maintain operations in virtually every department in the University.

The URA has been in communications with many of the University’s top leaders for over a week where we have made demands that will help to protect the health of all of the University community.

  • We have asked for an expansion in telecommuting, allowing all employees who can to work from home. Many of us do our work on our computers and have little contact with the public. We raise the risk of contamination by coming to work in our offices while reducing access of those who are disinfecting offices to do so thoroughly.
  • We have asked that we don’t charge our own PTO time in cases where we have to quarantine, voluntarily or involuntarily. This includes if/when our children’s school closes and we need to be home with them.
  • We have asked for additional protections for those who have contact with those who travel, internationally and domestically. As we are hosting potential graduate and undergraduate students, we put ourselves at risk with each additional contact.
  • We have asked for cancellation of large group staff meetings/events that can be postponed or teleconferenced.
  • We have asked for the expanded cleaning plan for common areas, including handrails, elevator buttons, and door handles.
  • We have asked that they provide protections for those who work in departments that have contact with the public, whether they are providing services in libraries, IPO, dining, extension services and others.

We have not received answers to many of our questions. This morning a letter was sent from all the AFT unions, URA, AAUP, and HPAE, who together represent over 15,000 employees at the University, to President Barchi and many of his leadership team.

We are awaiting answers and if we don’t get them, we will demand to negotiate immediately. Due to the state of emergency enacted by Gov. Murphy on Monday, March 9, 2020, the University can modify preexisting rules temporarily.

Please see the letter that went to the leadership today.

I ask that you send emails with your concerns to the Task Force that the University has set up for these issues at .  Please cc so we are aware of what your concerns are so we can work together.

Please call or send an email to Rep. Frank Pallone, our local representative.

He is very involved with Rutgers and is a supporter of labor and needs to know that Rutgers is undervaluing staff’s health by not protecting us.

Please contact Gov. Murphy since he has notified state workers they not have to charge their time if they need to quarantine due to COVID-19 at

He can also pressure Pres. Barchi to update his plans to include staff health as a priority.

In addition, Rutgers students are advocating on our behalf. They have started a petition to President Barchi to highlight that staff need health protections as well. I ask that you take a moment and sign it.

Sign »

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve daily, we need member input and action to get the protections we deserve.  Please stay in touch as departments modify their practices moving forward.

Please stay safe and follow all the CDC recommendations to protect you and your families.

In solidarity,

Christine O’Connell

Please note our new address:
URA-AFT, 75 Raritan Ave. Suite 255
Highland Park, New Jersey 08904

We can still be reached by phone at 732–745-0300, or email at