By Paul O’Keefe, Assistant Teaching Professor, Geography, Executive Council Member, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
- Article 28, which proposes to reclassify PTL appointments, was introduced. At its heart is the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work. Practically, the article will classify PTL work as equivalent to a fraction of full-time NTT faculty work at Rutgers.
- Our bargaining team presented examples of Rutgers NTTs who have become eligible for tenure, PTLs who have become fractional NTTs. None of the examples were contested as historical evidence for how these issues can be addressed, although whether they could be used as precedents across bargaining units was.
- We await a response from management to previously presented articles and hope to see continuing evidence of good-faith constructive engagement in the bargaining process.
- We (still!) await a response from management over grad funding extensions. We were told GPDs are still being consulted. As a reminder, many grads face a cutoff of funding this month.
On Monday, June 13, our colleagues in the Adjunct Faculty Union held a bargaining session with management. This session was also centered around part-time lecturers (PTLs) at Rutgers—specifically the introduction of a new article in the full-time contract, Article 28, to cover PTLs.
Article 28 proposes to reclassify PTLs as fractional NTT appointments. This is a point of principle: that of equal pay for equal work. We await management’s response to this question of principle. The necessity for this new article was illustrated by PTLs, NTTs, as well as the Adjunct Union’s bargaining committee. Multiple examples of potential existing precedents for the procedural questions this new article raised were provided.
At this week’s bargaining sessions, Vice President for NTT Faculty Carla Katz spoke about transitioning from PTL to NTT employment at Rutgers. Adjunct Union President Amy Higer described the inverted pathway she experienced when her full-time position was terminated and she subsequently taught the same courses as a lower-paid PTL. Heather Pierce, an adjunct, described all the things she does in her work at Rutgers, and it was very similar to what I do—yet she is a PTL, paid piece-rate per course, while I am paid to be a full-time faculty member to educate and serve. We evidently both contribute to the academic mission of this university in similar ways, yet are unequally and unfairly rewarded.
The stories presented in this session were therefore very personal to me. Adjuncts do the same work as I do and more, yet they are paid less than me and are without the relative security of a multi-year contract. It was frankly disheartening, if not a little shaming, to all of us with more security to have it so clearly spelled out how dependent the academic mission of Rutgers is on the continued exploitation of PTL labor. This vicious cycle continues: adjuncts serve the institution and deliver service obligations of departments precisely because they are invested in their students and their academic success, while they are unfairly rewarded and continually exploited by the university. Management needs to acknowledge that Rutgers has relied overly much on this pool of contingent labor power. It has an opportunity to make positive changes, based on existing examples within Rutgers, that would begin to give integral members of our beloved community the respect they deserve.
Questions about both the process and principle of Article 28 were raised by management. Generally, the positive tone of previous sessions was maintained. Our bargaining team provided examples of how flexibility could be maintained in the case of some PTL labor. PTLs spoke of teaching the same course, every semester for decades, but still requiring semester-by-semester reappointment. Management responded by talking about the need to maintain flexibility. Our union representatives responded with evidence of how flexibility has been maintained, but pointed out that flexibility was not the dominant reason why PTL labor has been used at Rutgers.
Our union has power because if we move collectively, we can achieve change. We also possess an institutional memory and living history that is unrivaled by management. Legacy and contemporary evidence of tenurable NTTs, fractional NTTs, promotion processes, and presumed renewability were presented from within the Rutgers system. Management may not accept that these examples provide precedence for others doing equivalent work across our bargaining unit, but they couldn’t challenge the factual, historical evidence.