Letter to the editor

A passionate letter from a former NEIU employee

I am heartbroken to report receiving a layoff notice this morning from Northeastern Illinois University. NEIU has been my workplace and my home away from home for nearly 6 years. I have loved serving the students at this wonderful university, from which I received my own Bachelor of Science degree in 1997. The overwhelming majority of our students come from modest or limited means, just as many of our staff, and have pursued careers and their dreams at NEIU.

I am especially angry at Governor Rauner for allowing public higher education to be held hostage during the unprecedented budget crisis that went on for over two years, harming millions of working people and families in Illinois, and doing irreparable damage to the lives of hard working people.

I also disagree with and am disappointed in, our university administration that went ahead with these layoffs despite the passage of a budget that so many of us were in the forefront of fighting for. We worked hard to demonstrate the absolute necessity for these funds to be released because we understood the extraordinary harm that the absence of these funds was causing. I, and all my union sisters and brothers in AFSCME, and much more among the staff at NEIU, believe it is wrong that our positions, and the critical services they provide, are still being axed in light of the budget victory. I fervently believe that there was, and remains, a better way forward, better for our students and our ability to serve them.

Ultimately, I am angry at our system which has allowed a few billionaires to put the immense wealth and profits of a few over the absolute rights and dire needs of our entire population. With each passing day, we see the acceleration of the disinvestment in public education, which is a human and civil right, and a cornerstone of a supposedly democratic society. I believe that the very thing that brought me and so many to public higher education in the first place are in serious jeopardy of being lost in our society, downsized or “right-sized” out of existence. Every blow to the public domain is a blow far beyond one individual or university, and despite our individual fates, we will all need to band together to make sure no more damage is done and try to regain the ground we have lost.

I have many highlights to remember with pleasure and satisfaction: collaborative teams among co-workers, and within the union, a sense of something better in the world to which we are all connected and that still imagines a brighter future, one that serves and celebrates the next generation, and employs us in the process. I still adhere to that vision because it is the only hope for the masses of humanity: to mobilize to serve the many without great wealth, and not to concede to the few whose wealth serves only them, not us.

If I occasionally seem a tad quieter in the immediate days and weeks ahead, as I adjust to my own new situation, know that I remain fully committed to defending the right to public education for all. I am committed to the mission of NEIU, as an alumna, as a laid off worker, and as a proud member and leader of AFSCME Local 1989 at NEIU. I will continue to champion the work and the causes of my AFSMCE union sisters and brothers as well as the rights of all working people throughout our state and nation.

I salute all the wonderful co-workers among the faculty and staff who work tirelessly at NEIU and all over Illinois. The cause of justice is still on OUR side, and I hope one day soon we will prevail. Without this fight for justice, there can be no peace.

In solidarity, down for the moment, but not out!

Linda Loew