Union speaks out against staff cuts at University of Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A union at the University of Memphis on Monday called on the school to save jobs instead of cutting them.

U of M recently announced that the pandemic has caused a $50 million shortfall, and now they will have to cut positions. The university says cuts are being made across the entire campus, including athletics, due to the pandemic.

But the United Campus Workers union says that is not the only solution.

 “This is a very sudden and drastic move,” said Emille Bowman of the U of M College of Arts and Sciences.

Bowman said workers in the physical plant, parking and transportation, copy center and mail service are the people most at risk of losing their jobs. 

University President David Rudd sent an email to faculty and staff about the broad range of cuts being made to balance the budget. In the email, Rudd said he was taking a 20% salary reduction and the school’s core leadership team would take a 10% pay cut.

But union workers say other cuts are being made on the backs of some of the most vulnerable workers who keep the campus safe, clean and operational.

“If you look at the list released by the president, the job titles consist of low-wage workers that are black or brown people,” union member Henry Jones said.

And, they say, many of these low-wage, hourly workers will also lose their medical benefits in the middle of a global pandemic.

“It’s incredibly concerning we would take away their benefits at this point. It is morally reprehensible to think about at this point,” said U of M employee Meghan Cullen. 

While the union, which says it represents about 500 campus workers, has no bargaining agreement with the university, members have advocated for workers who they say fear speaking out.

They want the university to instead implement temporary pay reductions for highly paid faculty and staff, and to issue furloughs instead of reductions in employees.

“This would not only allow for these employees to retain their benefits during the pandemic, but it would allow the university to retain staff so we can have a safe and healthy environment for faculty, staff and students to return to once the pandemic is over,” Cullen said.

WREG reached out to the University of Memphis and we are waiting to hear back.

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