By Paul O’Keefe, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Bargaining has restarted. Delaying these negotiations is primarily to the benefit of management. We are the ones compelled to continue working with an expired contract. Bargaining will continue on an alternating small-group/large-group schedule. This session was a small-group session, with our core bargaining team and some member-observers attending.
There were positive steps toward agreement on questions regarding discrimination against people for non-legally protected reasons. We look forward to seeing detailed responses from management, and we look forward to the next larger bargaining session.
It was good to see the resumption of bargaining and attempts to move forward on both sides. However, management continued to fall back on the legal minimum as the safe option regarding discrimination. How else could an institution make fair claims on who could or could not be justifiably discriminated against, other than those who have been given legally protected status? Does Rutgers want to be seen as a laggard, embarrassed by its obligations to be a pathbreaking flagship institution? If the administration continues to fall back on solely what is established in law regarding discrimination, this risk can only increase. Specifically, this discussion is about Article 4 and its proposal to establish and expand the rights of our members to not experience discrimination.
Our team provided evidence of the growing problem of discrimination based on caste. This has specific importance to New Jersey, due to its large South Asian immigrant and/or origin communities. Processes already put in place at comparable institutions, such as Brandeis and the University of California system, can be a model for Rutgers. To reiterate, this is another opportunity for management to demonstrate a desire to be at the forefront of making our workplaces better places, and to make clear that harassment will not be tolerated, regardless of protected character. It was disappointing, therefore, to see management fall back on the legal minimum. We are a flagship institution!
Much of the remainder of the session was about the details of grievance procedures. Our union has a formidable Contract Enforcement and Grievance team, and it was highly satisfying to observe them do their jobs, on our behalf, so well. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get too enthused about the intricacies of the grievance procedure-OEE axis of complaint. I have full trust that our side’s main concerns—about complainants having the right to see the result of any investigation into their complaint—will continue to be stated until resolved. Onwards to the next (larger) session. Overall, it’s good to be moving again.
The above is a report from a 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.