IU?s actions threatening to all workers

  • Oct. 7, 2013

By Joseph Varga Special to the H-T 

This guest column was submitted by Joseph Varga of Bloomington, a member of the Progressive Faculty/Staff Coalition at Indiana University and a spokesperson for South Central Indiana Jobs with Justice.

Indiana University recently made public its plan to dismiss 50 hourly workers from custodial and maintenance jobs in the Bloomington physical plant department. The university will then force these workers to re-apply for their jobs through a temporary agency.

This move comes in the wake of restrictions on the number of hours worked by part-time staff and support workers, as well as massive lay-offs in the affiliated IU Health system. While IU has claimed that these moves are necessary and “responsible from a spending perspective,” they are, in fact, cynical, alarming, unnecessary and damaging to both the university and to the wider community.

Indiana University is not a for-profit business. It is a public institution whose mission is educating the public and engaging in cutting edge research, while fostering a creative and secure environment that benefits the state of Indiana, the people and the surrounding community. At a time when top administrators are receiving substantial raises and six-figure salaries, and the university engages in massive building programs on campus, the simultaneous necessity of slashing hours and “temping” low-paid employees appears extremely suspicious and exceptionally unfair.

Such callousness does serious damage both to the workers and their families and to Bloomington and the surrounding community. These moves represent a threat to the entire workforce and indicate a willingness on behalf of the university and board of trustees to continue to balance the books at the expense of vulnerable workers who are denied the right to collective bargaining procedures and to genuine input and job security.

Rather than attack low-paid and part-time workers, the university administration and the board of trustees should be using their considerable influence and power to demand massive increases in state funding, or at the very least, a return to pre-2000’s funding levels. At a time of record corporate profits and staggering levels of income inequality, IU’s move to lay off low-wage workers and slash hours is an act of shocking irresponsibility.

The IU Bloomington Progressive Faculty and Staff Caucus, AFSCME Local 832, CWA Local 741, Democracy for Monroe County, and South Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, strongly urge Indiana University and the Board of Trustees to immediately cancel the decision to lay off the 50 physical plant workers, and to restore hours to those who worked more than 30 hours per week in the preceding fiscal year.

Austerity at the state and federal level is already causing havoc for American workers in all forms of employment. Irresponsible corporations like General Electric lay off workers despite soaring profits, while the city of Bloomington has outsourced custodial work to a notoriously anti-union Indianapolis-based temporary employment agency.

The war on American workers is raging, and our campus and community are on the front lines. Indiana University strives to be at the cutting edge as an institution. It should not be at the cutting edge of fiscal irresponsibility and austerity, and should not be engaging in assaults on low-wage workers. We can and must do better.

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.