By Kyle Riismandel, Executive Council, and Esperanza Santos, Member, Rutgers AAUP-AFT, Newark Chapter
Today’s session was largely technical discussions about grievance procedures in Articles 10 and 11. Management wants faculty who file grievances and come to a pre-hearing resolution to sign away future rights to grieve an issue or sue the university. Indeed, this was the most animated anyone had seen management be about any article thus far discussed.
Though waivers like these are becoming standard in the corporate world, our experienced team members BJ Walker, Damon Fillman, and union attorney Steve Weissman made clear this was not acceptable and was actually a hindrance to reaching pre-hearing agreements. Rutgers is a public university and not a corporation who can evade accountability to its workers.
Article 2 on Academic Freedom is mostly agreed to, with some disputes about a proposed symposium to be worked out, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Otherwise, management did not present any counters to union proposals, including on urgent issues such as graduate worker funding extensions, which have been under discussion for months. Their tactic to delay and increase pressure for an agreement later was evident on Tuesday, as it has been since negotiations began.
Overall, there was solidarity among the members in attendance in opposing management overreach. It’s clear the union has a shared commitment to each other, which feels worthwhile.
For a more detailed discussion of what took place, see below:
Article 2 – Academic Freedom
Becky Givan made clear that the protections for academic freedom in the union proposal were of the utmost importance given the widespread and ongoing attacks on academics around the country. She also emphasized Rutgers should be a leader in this area.
Management tacitly acknowledged the importance of protecting academic freedom but quibbled about the format and purpose of the proposed symposium on academic freedom. Nonetheless, there seems to be momentum toward agreement on this article.
Articles 10 and 11 – TT and NTT Grievance procedures
Discussion of these articles centered on management’s inclusion of an overly broad waiver of future rights to file grievances or sue the university; they want this waiver to be mandatory as part of any pre-hearing grievance resolution agreement.
BJ Walker, the senior member of our union’s Contract Enforcement and Grievance staff, steadfastly held that these waivers are too broad and seemingly prevent a faculty member who initiates the grievance process and comes to a pre-hearing resolution from ever grieving the issue again. She and staff member Damon Fillman made clear that this waiver language has already made some faculty uneasy about signing an informal resolution.
Management’s response was to say “trust us,” as they will take each incident individually and treat faculty fairly. This is unacceptable.
The administration hasn’t been so animated to push an issue forward in some time, which demonstrates their priorities in negotiations. Rather than continue bargaining around whether our union will accept these new terms, we will take a look at the terms and propose new, clarified language that maintains our position.