Since Friday, Oct. 16’s announcement by Frostburg State University President Ronald H. Nowaczyk that several staff members would be laid off after negotiations between the university and AFSCME, a union representing over 300 employees, turned sour, the campus community has waited with bated breath to learn whose job is at risk. Finally, on Tuesday, Oct. 21, word came from the administration that 11 union-represented employees were given 90 days notice of their dismissal.
However, AFSCME says that 12 of their members, not 11 as reported by Nowaczyk, received layoff notices. The impacted employees come from all over campus including an employee in Admissions, three from the Office of Student & Community Involvement, two from the IT department, one from Residence Life, a groundskeeper, and numerous office assistants and graduate services employees.
Nowaczyk previously told staff and faculty during a virtual meeting on Sept. 25 that FSU’s initial proposals to AFSCME included pay cuts for every employee, including those making around $27,000 a year. “The culture of this institution has been to share the burden across the entire workforce while protecting those at the lower end as much as possible,” Nowaczyk said.
However, when the identities of the laid-off employees reached AFSCME, it was revealed that most are low-wage earners. “Nine of the twelve staff members given layoff notices earn less than $50,000 a year,” said Jakob Klaus, AFSCME’s Western Maryland representative, “and four of them earn $40,000 a year or less.” One impacted employee earns approximately $29,000 a year. “So much for protecting the lowest earners on campus,” said Klaus.
In the Oct. 21 email announcement sent to the campus community, Nowaczyk wrote that notices had been sent by email and U.S. mail to those employees whose last day of employment is projected to be Jan. 19, 2021. He wrote, “taking these actions was not easy,” and that employees not represented under a collective bargaining agreement would receive details of the planned salary reduction plan by the end of this week. However, FSU Vice President for Budget and Finance Leon Wyden, Jr. had previously reported to faculty and staff that “scenarios where salary reduction could be implemented without the union’s approval to mitigate the impact for non-members” was advised against by the Maryland Attorney General’s office. It is unclear why FSU is now free to move forward with non-union plans despite this suggestion.
Update: President Nowaczyk emailed the campus community on Thursday, Oct. 22 to confirm that he was mistaken regarding the number of employees to be laid off. The official number of employees is 12.
This is an ongoing and developing story. To keep up with collective bargaining negotiations and salary reductions, check out The Bottom Line’s full coverage here.