USPS Workers Fight Dismissal from FAMU

At the typical “9 to 5,” the best part of the workday usually comes at the end of the shift.

For some workers at Florida A&M this summer, however,  the end of the workday turned out to be the worst. After several discussions of budget cuts and the subsequent restructuring of the university by President James Ammons, more than 100 employees were given their walking papers. 

“A total of 142 staff were displaced as a result of the budget cuts,” said Teresa Hardee, chief financial officer and vice president for administrative and financial affairs. Since the 2009-10 academic year, FAMU received $15.8 million in stimulus dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Ninety-eight percent of those positions were funded from federal stimulus dollars,” said Hardee.

Several departments, including the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, General Studies and J.A. Mulrennan Science and Research Lab, were impacted the most with the highest number of staff cuts, Hardee said.

Although many staff members have recently been laid off due to budget cuts, the decision to lay off employees started much earlier, said William Tucker, retiree and volunteer faculty activist, who is representing 10 employees in their grievance proceeding.

On June 28, 10 laid-off FAMU employees filed grievances with Human Resources, arguing that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees procedures incorrectly provided protocol for the layoff of tenured and non-tenured faculty.

Members covered by the AFSME comprised of groundskeepers, clerical staff, electricians and plumbers.  

“Around the end of May or beginning of June, about 48 people got notices saying that they were being put on administrative leave and they were being laid off, ” said Tucker.

After being notified by an employee in the union, Tucker followed up with the 10 and started reviewing the contract for the University

Support Personnel System’s collective bargaining unit. 

“They addressed many concerns, such as contract interpretation regarding USPS personnel and violations of agreement procedures during the layoffs,” Tucker said.

The grievance also said the university failed to put forth the required effort to assist the 10 in finding alternative employment.

“And then you didn’t restructure the office…they eliminated the position, but didn’t eliminate the work,” said Tucker.

“Most layoffs occur, in labor situations, where the work itself disappears.”

Tucker said employees told him they were given an envelope of alternative work options and weren’t told why they were let go. “A Restructuring and Reinvestment Plan” was approved by the University Board of Trustees.

“Every effort was made to keep the university informed,” said Hardee.

Since developed, there have been focus group meetings discussing the restructuring plan. And Ammons has held several campus-wide forums with faculty, staff and students. 

“We’ve noticed that the university has begun to hire back in slots that they let people go, in some cases,” said Tucker. “I’m just about halfway through [the 10 cases]…then the university will have time to write a decision.”