Participants leave Peden Stadium on their way to College Green for a motorcade rally calling for a firing freeze at Ohio University and the reinstatement of cut jobs.
Participants leave Peden Stadium on their way to College Green for a motorcade rally calling for a firing freeze at Ohio University and the reinstatement of cut jobs. (WOUB/Michelle Rotuno-Johnson)

OU Faculty and Staff Call for Firing Freeze, Reinstatement of Jobs at Motorcade Rally

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Ohio University faculty, staff, students, and Athens community members demanded that administrators freeze layoffs and reinstate union workers who lost their jobs during a motorcade rally Wednesday.

The Ohio chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1699 organized the rally.

Participants gathered in the Peden Stadium parking lot and drove up South Shafer Street to West Union Street. Many honked their horns, tied aluminum cans to their back bumpers, or displayed signs on their vehicles.

The university eliminated 140 AFSCME jobs last Friday.

Denise Trainer, vice-president of Local 1699, said these workers drive the Athens economy and have been working on campus even as other employees work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were born and raised here, our babies are here, our grandkids are here,” Trainer said. “And you are cutting the people who do the work on this campus.”

The union represents approximately 500 maintenance, custodial, dining services, information technology, groundskeeper and other positions, according to the Labor Relations office website. (There is no indication of the last time the website was updated).

John Ackison, president of Local 1699, said he feels like workers are being discarded.

“We were essential during the COVID outbreak and when the students were still here, and when the students were moving, coming in to get their stuff,” he said. “And as soon as that happens, you kind of feel like you were kind of done away with. Kicked to the curb, so to speak.”

At least three faculty members have said they were informed by their department chairs that their contracts would not be renewed.

Dr. Julie White, vice-president of OU-AAUP and associate professor of political science, said faculty are asking for more information on budget decisions from the administration and more input on what happens in the future.

“I really hope that the administration will reconsider its approach to budget planning as we go forward,” White said.

Dr. Loren Lybarger, an associate professor of classics and world religions, is the president of OU’s chapter of AAUP. He said OU-AAUP has approximately 55 dues-paying members and more than 200 faculty on a contact list.

He said AAUP is primarily asking for transparency from OU’s administration and for faculty and administration to collaborate on decisionmaking.

“Show us the plan, make the case to the faculty for the plan,” he said.

“As a faculty, we don’t feel as if we are being engaged in any meaningful way. And, in fact, we’re just waiting for the cuts to fall.”

Schools throughout the state are making similar decisions. The University of Dayton recently announced it will be furloughing or laying off more than 500 employees this summer due to the effects of the pandemic. And Kent State University has made it clear that the next budget year will include “layoffs and job abolishments,” along with pay cuts for staff.

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