By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

The facts: How six SLICE employees were fired and rehired within two weeks

SLICE employees at their Yakima River Cleanup Event in 2022. Courtesy SLICE/Instagram

Hours after returning to the office on Jan. 2, six SLICE (Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement) employees were sat down in front of an audience of their peers and unabashedly told by organization director Veronica Pettigrew that their services were “no longer needed.” Nine days later, all employees were reinstated into their original positions following extensive outcry from current SLICE employees, students, faculty, community members and the Working Wildcats student workers’ union. What caused this series of mass firings? What led to the employees’ reinstatement? How did the campus react? 

Anna Ward, a member of SLICE’s Clubs and Orgs programming team recounted the situation: “We sat down in this meeting that was non-mandatory [the first meeting after winter break], we sat through four hours of training including back-to-back triggering videos… with no warning from our director that these would be happening,” said Ward. “At the end of the training, she [Pettigrew] laid down what she wanted to change in the office and then listed off [the names of] six employees, including myself, and said our services were no longer needed.” 

Ward also described a “Hunger Games”-esque scene where her coworker, Devon Nawdish, offered his own position to be cut instead of Ward’s, which Pettigrew accepted. According to a later email from the SLICE director and an open letter cosigned by all six fired employees, the reason for termination was “department budget, accessing programmatic needs, consultation with staff members, and grade point average.” SLICE’s budget had previously been cut by 10% according to Ward. 

The open letter condemns the firing, citing its arbitrariness, the “far above average GPAs” of the victimized employees and the distribution of the former employees’ shunted projects as indicating that the “process was not well reasoned, planned, or thought through.” Not all of the employees were in the office at the time of the firing due to the non-mandatory nature of the meeting and had to find out via group chat that they had been terminated. 

“None of us knew the magnitude of what would be happening,” said Ward. ‘“The pro staff who are directly above us… were not communicated with or told even before the meeting happened that they would be losing employees.” At the time of the firing, SLICE had been operating with a staff of 16, losing nearly 40% of the organization’s employees to this single set of terminations. 

The open letter also states that the “firing has the appearance of retaliation, and is part of a pattern of humiliating and disturbing behavior faced by employees in the office.” Examples are listed of circumstances at SLICE where Pettigrew questioned employee productivity, asked employees to perform frivolous tasks, and made “sweeping changes without even talking to Professional or Student staff who had been working on projects for months” after she joined the organization in November.

A petition calling for the reinstatement of the fired SLICE employees garnered over 200 signatures, along with the damning open letter cosigned by Devon Nawdish, Emily Duncan Nastasjja Bach, Nova Wendikbo, Em Eichholtz and Ku Hoapili (the six fired employees). The letter was seen by university heads including President Jim Wohlpart and Vice President for the Division of Student Engagement and Success Dr. Margaret Ortega according to Ward. Ward also credits the Working Wildcats student workers’ union as being essential to the eventual reinstatement of the six employees. The Working Wildcats helped to draft the open letter as well as organize the petition, both of which can be seen on the union’s website.

On Jan. 11 at 9:00 a.m., SLICE student employees were alerted that their six fired coworkers were offered back their jobs, a remarkably fast turnaround spurred by the actions of those on campus seeking fair treatment after the terminations.

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