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Faculty for a Democratic Union

July 30 Update

Dear PTL Colleagues,

Lauren Barbato and Brian Kin Lee are running for President and Vice President of our PTL union!  

For the first time in decades, we have an opportunity to elect new leaders with fresh ideas and deep connections to our rank-and-file membership.

Our current leaders negotiated the last two contracts. Each time, they fell far short of their goals, and did not deliver on any of our key demands: a living wage of $7250 per course; access to health care; and real job security.

Lauren Barbato and Brian Kin Lee bring vast experience in recruiting and organizing. As Rutgers alumni, they know first-hand how important it is for students to have an adjunct faculty that the university treats fairly and with dignity. Lauren and Brian can lead the way in transforming our union.

There is a wave of union activism spreading around the country. Teachers are finally standing up and fighting for better working conditions. They know that better conditions will allow them to be better teachers.

We should be part of this movement. With new leaders, we can be.

Please vote for Lauren Barbato and Brian Kin Lee on the Faculty for a Democratic Union slate! Read their bios below.

I’m a proud Rutgers-Newark graduate (MFA Creative Writing, 2017) and co-founder of the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus. I’ve lived the plight of the adjunct over my last four years at Rutgers. In addition to teaching in the Newark Writing Program, I’ve served as a humanities instructor in the Rutgers REaCH Program, a writing tutor for the Rutgers School of Social Work, a community teacher in Newark, and an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Rutgers adjuncts are not “part-time lecturers”; we are, largely and increasingly, full-time “part-timers,” trying to cobble up a living for ourselves and our families. I taught on a broken ankle the entire spring semester, unable to receive medical benefits or accommodations from the university. I never missed a day of class, for my students and my own livelihood, but no PTL should have to struggle in these ways.

In spring 2019, I became an organizer for our union, tasked with recruiting Newark PTLs during contract negotiations. I was motivated by the energy I saw among Rutgers PTLs, and the diverse skills and life experiences each one of us brings to the table. At the same time, I was disheartened by the lack of mobilizing, transparency and communication from PTL leadership.

Our voices need to be amplified at the bargaining table, E-board and senate meetings, and across all three Rutgers campuses. We need to implement a department-representation program that ensures PTLs in all departments, on all campuses, have open and active communication with leadership. A committee for grad students who are PTLs is also essential. Leadership serves not a select few, but the rank and file.

I’ve organized alongside CUNY adjuncts and their 7k or Strike campaign, and have worked in the reproductive rights movement for many years with nonprofits such as Catholics for Choice. I will bring these mobilizing, writing, and media skills to my officer position.


I currently serve as a PTL in the Physics and Astronomy department at New Brunswick. I began teaching physics labs as a PTL in Fall 2013, during my third year as an undergraduate. At the time, I didn’t realize that the position was anything beyond that of a student worker—it wasn’t until an entire year later, when an organizer from our union knocked on my door, that I realized that I was a member of the teaching faculty here after all.

That alone ought to suggest a thing or two about the dire necessity of our union’s work. I joined in a heartbeat, and began training that summer as an organizer. Shortly afterward, I ran for a position on the Board, and have served actively since 2015, both on the executive front and on the ground recruiting. During the last contract campaign, I served as the PTL liaison on our union’s Media and Communications Committee, which oversaw much of the media outreach regarding the strike authorization.

Now, I am running for the office of Vice President of our Executive Board. I am doing so for a simple reason: I believe that there are vast structural improvements that can be made across our union’s domain. I would like to implement them.

My education demands a capacity to analyze the dynamics of a system. I’ve been taught by PTLs here; I teach as a PTL here; I’ve organized as a PTL here; I’ve been a member of our board for three years: I believe myself uniquely situated to understand the dynamics of our condition as PTLs. Information through our union is slow, sparse, and inconsistent. It doesn’t need to be. Our voices are marginal, and lack an efficient and transparent means of consensus. We can change this.

The contract we won this year was a first and shaky step forward. Many found it disappointing, unable to live up to our ambitions. Many still were disappointed by the process, largely opaque to our membership. I apologize for this: we on the Board could have done better. If anything, this disappointment has rendered clear the urgency and necessity of change. The Faculty for a Democratic Union offers the first such opportunity that we have seen in years, and I stand with them for this reason. I ask humbly for your vote: we must move forward, and change is history’s most potent actor.

Vote Faculty for a Democratic Union!

Faculty for a Democratic Union is also running eight candidates for the executive board. Included on the slate are PTL union founder and executive board incumbent Karen Thompson, incumbent Dan Sidorick, and caucus leaders Amy Higer, Bryan Sacks, and David Winters.

We ask you to vote Faculty for a Democratic Union to bring transformation to our PTL union!

Faculty for a Democratic Union, Executive Board Candidates:

Ann Alter, NB

Frank Bridges, NB

Amy Higer, Newark

Bryan Sacks, Camden

Dan Sidorick, NB

Karen Thompson, NB

Alex Walter, NB

David Winters, NB


July 23 Update

Vote 4 Change: Vote for Faculty for a Democratic Union!

To Our PTL Colleagues:

If you haven’t already voted, we hope you will vote for us—FACULTY FOR A DEMOCRATIC UNION—in the election for PTL Executive Board! 

Why should you vote for Faculty for a Democratic Union?  

We believe that real progress doesn’t come from lawyers sitting at the negotiating table. It doesn’t come from dividing our ranks into “professionals” and “novices.” It doesn’t come from claiming that tiny raises are something to celebrate. Power in unions, and real progress for PTLs, will come from the bottom up--from organizing our members, and from energetic and creative mobilization. We are the slate that knows how to organize.

Here’s what we’ve already done: 

  • In April, we recruited adjuncts on our campuses, and expanded our ranks. 
  • In May, we set up new social media sites, and have used them creatively and effectively.  Our Facebook page has 90 members; our Twitter account has 218 followers; our department-based email lists include hundreds of PTLs. Through these new channels that we’ve created, we have reached out to YOU, the rank-and-file, to find out your concerns, to field your questions, and to strengthen our union.  
  • In June, we organized in-person meet-ups on all three campuses. For those who couldn’t make it, we hosted Zoom video conference calls.
  • During contract negotiations, we organized protests on our campuses, and created new networks with graduate and undergraduate students.  We’ve joined forces with CUNY adjuncts, and their “7K or Strike” campaign.
  • Since the 2016 election, we have engaged in grass-roots organizing with progressive groups in NJ and around the country. We’ve led protests, organized rallies, canvassed for candidates, and mobilized our local communities.  We are adjuncts, but we are also activists.
  • And don’t just take our word for it. See what our CUNY adjunct colleagues $7K Or Strike have to say about our campaign!

We know our strategy is working because for the first time in the union’s history, we have a competitive election for the PTL Chapter’s governance. There are more candidates running than seats to fill. THIS is revolutionary and groundbreaking.  And it is a direct result of only two-months of organizing. Imagine what we could achieve if we have seats on the board, and win this election? 

As you may have heard, President Barchi is leaving Rutgers next year. This means that our next contract will be negotiated with a new administration. Now is the time for new leadership in our own union.  Electing new leaders will send Rutgers a message: We are energized, we’ve joined forces with adjunct faculty around the country, and we are ready to fight.  Please vote for Faculty for a Democratic Union and help us transform our union! 

In solidarity,

Faculty for a Democratic Union


Lauren Barbato, candidate for PTL Union President

Brian Lee (Vice President)

Ann Alter (at-large representative, New Brunswick)

Frank Bridges (at-large representative, New Brunswick)

Amy Higer  (at-large representative, Newark)

Bryan Sacks (at-large representative, Camden)

Dan Sidorick (at-large representative, New Brunswick)

Karen Thompson (at-large representative, New Brunswick)

Alex Walter (at-large representative, New Brunswick) 

David Winters (at-large representative, New Brunswick)

Questions about our slate?  We’d love to hear from you!





Our slate of 10 candidates for PTL Executive Board is comprised of PTLs from across the university, from a variety of disciplines, and varying lengths of employment. All of us believe that the time is ripe for change, and that the status quo is unacceptable. We firmly reject the idea that we have no power.  Our labor is our power.  

Although we have many different ideas about how to strengthen our union, these are the principles that unite us:

  • We need a union that is democratic and transparent. For this, we need our Executive (or “E”) Board to be more than a rubber stamp for union officers. The E-Board should guide union leaders, and union leaders should report to the E-Board. The E-Board, in turn, should be guided by, and report to, PTL union members. All union business should be fully transparent to all members. Transparency must include sharing all information about election processes and election results, and sharing all information about financial and other compensation provided to chapter president, vice-president, other officers, and members of the negotiating team. Members of the E-Board must attend monthly meetings. We are not served by having no-show members on the Board. 
  • We need a stronger bargaining strategy. The recent contract did little to address our woefully inadequate pay and working conditions. We can build a strategy to win based on recognizing that our labor is our leverage. We should work in solidarity with the full-time faculty union and build solidarity coalitions with other unions on campus. We need to begin now to build a winning campaign for 2022.
  • We need to mobilize our membership. Without mobilization, we cannot win. The single most important thing we can do is to build a professional community of adjunct faculty on all three campuses. The Board should make use of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to foster interactive communication among PTLs.  For strengthening our union, however, there is no substitute for building community. To do this, the E-Board should foster opportunities for regular PTL meet-ups on all three campuses, create a department-based PTL representative structure, and increase PTL visibility on all campuses. 
  • We need to build membership from its current low point. By building a dynamic program as outlined above, we can generate interest and excitement in our union and bring in a much larger proportion of PTLs. We can and must create leverage for future contract negotiations through a strategy of coalition-building and ongoing, creative mobilizations. We must develop strong ties with progressive social movements across all three campuses by showing up to support their protests and actions, and asking for their solidarity during our own job actions, such as grade-ins, teach-ins, and pickets.
  • We need to build coalitions with contingent faculty outside of Rutgers.  We are not alone in our fight for fair compensation and professional recognition. The more we support the mobilization of contingent faculty groups in our region and around the country, the stronger we will be. We must join forces with faculty at other universities who are fighting for the same things: a fair wage, access to health care, and professional recognition.   


Questions about our slate?  There are several ways to reach us:







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