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Employees Push Back On Cal State University Layoffs

The California State University Employees Union staged a protest of staff layoffs near the campus on October 3. (Screenshot via CSUEU video)
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A union representing workers at California State University, Fullerton is protesting the university’s move to lay off 46 workers on campus.

According to university officials, the layoff notices reflect the reality of running a campus that is far from fully open.

“We've got a campus sitting there, that we mostly are not using a lot of the facilities because we're not able to in a safe and healthy manner,” said CSU Fullerton Vice President of Human Resources David Forgues.

Union leaders are pushing back. Vicky McLeod, vice president of the campus’ California State University Employee’s Union, said, “some of the employees who got the layoffs are our lowest paid.”

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McLeod’s union represents 16,000 clerical workers and other classified staff systemwide and is asking why the Fullerton leaders aren’t tapping into reserves to keep people on the job.

Parking officer Juan Vasquez is among the union members notified that they would be out of work. He said he’d been working 40 hours a week despite most campus operations shifting online. That work has included taking stock of equipment and planning how to improve parking structures, as well as writing parking tickets.

“I wasn't expecting to be laid off during the pandemic,” Vasquez said. “We still have students on campus, we have residents, we have people attending in-person classes that are parking their cars on campus.”

The union staged a rally on Saturday next to CSU Fullerton to protest layoffs.

A Cal State Fullerton spokesman said reserves were not an issue in the layoffs, and that a lack of necessary work drove the decision.

Forgues, who heads the university’s human resources, said the layoffs weren’t taken lightly.

"We went through and took a look at all of our management and we reduced our management numbers,” Forgues said ahead of the weekend protest. “We did the hard work of taking a look at our temporary employees and reduced there as much as we could… these folks are valued members of our community.”

Most CSU campuses did not issue layoff notices. State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty sent a letter to CSU Chancellor Tim White expressing concern over the layoffs.

“[Layoffs] are not on the table at Long Beach State at this time,” said campus spokesman Jeff Cook. He said his campus absorbed $21.7 million in state funding cuts this year and in response has frozen hiring and tapped into reserves.

The CSU Chancellor’s office gives campus administration wide latitude on fiscal and policy matters. Cal State Northridge laid off eight employees while most other Cal State campuses in Southern California issued no layoff notices. The San Francisco campus issued about 120 layoffs, the Sonoma campus about 40, and CSU Monterey Bay about 25 layoffs.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled David Forgues' last name and misstated McLeod's title. LAist regrets the error.

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