Dear [UNC System Administrator],
We are a coalition of workers, students, staff, faculty, and community organizers from across the state of North Carolina who stand firmly in opposition to the proposed Senate Bill 575: the Higher Education Efficiency and Flexibility Act. SB 575 would remove 22,000 UNC System employees from the legal protections provided to them under the State Personnel Act and give sole and complete authority to the Board of Governors to manage SPA positions. While we understand the precarious situation that the university system is in because of the General Assembly’s decision to cut funding for higher education, we believe that SB 575 will have disastrous consequences for university employees and their ability to assert their rights in the workplace.
If SB 575 is passed and the Board of Governors is given sole and complete authority to determine the parameters of employment for UNC System employees—including setting health and disability benefits, wages, grievance policies, disciplinary measures and human resources policies—there would be no higher authority, no external, objective system of checks and balances to catch possible or actual abuses of power. The deliberate vagueness of SB 575 that compelled the issuing of guiding principles is indicative of why this bill is problematic. It puts University workers in a position where they are forced to depend upon the benevolence of management as essentially “at-will” employees, able to be terminated at any time without explicit justification, giving management even more extensive control over matters critical to the livelihood of workers such as job security and benefits. While current members of the Board of Governors and UNC administrators may have the best intentions, as indicated by the guiding principles that President Ross put forth, there is no codified legal guarantee that the application of these principles will be maintained in the event that leadership transitions within University Administrations, and the Board of Governors, to individuals who do not prioritize the protection of worker’s rights.
By removing university workers across the state from legal protections for redress they now have under the State Personnel Act, SB 575 will perpetuate a work environment where employees fear retaliation if they speak out against poor working conditions, effectively silencing worker voices. As university employees, students and invested members of this community standing in solidarity for the respect and dignity of workers that tirelessly maintain our universities, we ask you to meet with representatives of our coalition to discuss the language of this bill and the ramifications its passage would have. It is our desire to open dialogue with the administration, so that we can work together to protect workers from harmful policy and legislation. We also ask that you release a public statement outlining your position on SB 575 so that we can better understand the administration’s reasoning for promoting this bill.
Finally, we invite you to a forum we are holding on Senate Bill 575, which will take place on April 4th. This event will serve as a space for both disseminating information as well as an opportunity for workers to speak from their personal experiences as to why they do not support SB 575 and how they think this legislation will make their jobs even more difficult. We hope that we can come together on this powerful date: the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. who was killed in the midst of his passionate fight for the rights of black sanitation workers. We will hold this Teach In/Speak Out in hopes of honoring his memory, as well as acknowledging the struggles faced by workers today including legislation like SB 575.
We have contacted organizers from other UNC system campuses and they will also be hosting educational events on the impact SB 575 will have on the lives of workers across North Carolina. This legislation will have a sweeping impact on the future of public employees across this state, and we feel compelled to speak out urgently against this shift in University employee designation. We urge you to join us, and stand in solidarity with workers across UNC System schools, integral members of the Carolina community, who deserve a work environment free from fear and intimidation.