PRESS RELEASE: PASSHE consolidation plan worse than expected for workers

Harrisburg, PA (April 28, 2021) – The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors voted on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, to open a 60-day public comment period on their “system redesign” and university consolidation plan, which they will then vote to implement in July.

AFSCME Council 13 is strongly opposed to the current plan, which includes drastic job cuts of staff and faculty at all 14 state system campuses, and aims to consolidate six of the 14 universities into two. We urge members of the Board of Governors to oppose this plan until more effort is put into avoiding the undue elimination of these good, unionized, family-sustaining jobs.

Custodians, groundskeepers, food service workers, clerical staff, and other essential workers that AFSCME represents, keep these campuses running safely and efficiently, and have continued to do so despite a global pandemic. Now, their jobs are at risk.

“The details PASSHE has released about their consolidation plan, coupled with new findings about the economic damage of the proposed plan, confirm that more must be done to avoid such destructive job cuts,” AFSCME Council 13 Executive Director David Henderson said.

“Our union stands ready to work with leadership at every university to properly examine ways to avoid layoffs of represented staff.”

The plan devised by PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein and some members of the Board of Governors also lacks transparency and input from the affected employees; threatens economic devastation for the campuses’ surrounding communities; endangers quality of service and education for students; carries negative implications for current, former, and future students; disproportionately impacts women; and generally seems to be a rushed plan that will do far-reaching harm both economically and educationally in Pennsylvania. This plan must be halted and reconsidered.

It was already known that PASSHE’s “system redesign” jeopardized the jobs of faculty and staff at all 14 universities, but we now know the economic impact will be even worse than expected for the campuses’ workers and their surrounding communities. A report released by the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) shows that the consolidation of six universities into two, and job cuts at all 14 of the campuses, will hurt local economies in a way similar to the ongoing experiences in Pennsylvania with factory closures and job losses. This is in addition to laying off hardworking people who keep campuses running safely and efficiently, even throughout a pandemic.

A better way is possible. In the recent case of Lock Haven University, the school’s leadership realized the small “savings” that outsourcing custodial jobs would bring was simply not worth it, and thankfully kept those jobs in-house.

Greenstein said it himself during the April 28 meeting: “With AFSCME, we’ve been successful at Edinboro and Bloom in not having to pursue various outsourcing plans because we worked closely with AFSCME to come up with a way that we could move forward together with them.”

While AFSCME is unaware of any jobs saved at Bloomsburg University, let it be known that in any case where AFSCME jobs have been saved, it was not because of outreach by the chancellor; it was because of the collective action of the AFSCME members whose jobs were being threatened. Through rallies, letters, phone calls, social media, and other means, workers made their voices heard, and found mutually beneficial alternatives for their respective campuses.

AFSCME Council 13 is not opposed to any changes at all to the system, but we are vehemently opposed to the current job-killing plan. The union is ready to work with PASSHE leadership toward a better outcome for all involved, and we fully intend to continue working with our local unions to organize actions that will ensure workers’ voices are heard.

 

AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) is the largest affiliate in the AFL-CIO. AFSCME Council 13 represents more than 65,000 employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and more than 3,000 employees on PASSHE campuses.