By Andy Urban, Vice President, New Brunswick Chapter, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Below is a report from the first bargaining session for our next contract. After each session, our union will provide an update, written by a rotating cast of member-observers who are sitting in on negotiations. Click here for a full archive of Bargaining Updates.
- Our union presented our Summary of Opening Bargaining Proposals, designed to highlight the priorities we hope to see included in the contract that will cover the next four years. The summary has links to the contract language we have proposed on almost all of the issues we plan to raise.
- We presented the successful #OneFaculty campaign. A majority of PTLs, members and non-members alike, have signed cards stating their wish to merge into one union, representing all faculty.
- We emphasized how our union believes that the contract we have proposed aligns with President Holloway’s vision for Rutgers and reflects a shared purpose with management: the need to address the larger, endemic problems in how higher education functions. President Holloway outlined some of these problems this school year in his Fall University Senate Address and Winter Budget Address.
- We asked the Office of University Labor Relations (OULR), which represents management, to approach bargaining with the same integrity, honesty, and transparency that we plan to bring to the table. We asked management to remember that every article drafted for incorporation into our new contract is not just a technical, legal point to be negotiated. Behind each article are years of experiences and knowledge about what can be done to ensure that Rutgers best serves its students, workers, and communities that it is part of.
Overall, our union did most of the talking at this first session. Bargaining lasted a bit over an hour, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear various members articulate the bold and ambitious proposals we have assembled and to appreciate the hours of work and democratic processes that went into their creation. Taken collectively, the articles that we are bringing to the bargaining table address both “bread and butter” issues that impact our immediate welfare (such as extensions of graduate funding; job security and stability for all workers; and raises that keep up with inflation), while also reflecting how our union is working to be a force for the greater common good. We are bargaining to shape how the university serves residents of Camden, New Brunswick, and Newark; to make sure that our students aren’t overburdened with debt and high rents in Rutgers-owned housing; and to make management’s rhetorical commitment to equity a reality.
Optimistically, when presented with Articles 29 and 31—addressing a path to tenure/job security for NTTs and the conversion of PTLs to full-time faculty, respectively—OULR asked for additional figures and percentages showing what the implementation of these articles would mean in practice. The union agreed that this was a good idea but reminded management that they have the necessary data to make these calculations and need to release it for our use.
During the first session, David Cohen, Vice President for University Labor Relations and Special Counsel for Labor Affairs, suggested that his office was likely to deem certain articles as ineligible for negotiation at the bargaining table, even if management had a sincere desire to act on their substance. We disagree. The reason these articles were drafted for inclusion in our next contract is because management has failed to act on them through other means of governance. We are skeptical and wary of this logic and want to flag it from the start.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24, and will address Articles 8 and 12, related to TA/GA compensation and the extension of funding for workers whose progress was impeded by the pandemic. Stay tuned for updates!