By Andy Urban, Vice President, New Brunswick Chapter, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
- Our union presented revised contract language for Articles 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, 21, 25, 27, 31, and 33. (A reminder: click here for a summary of our opening bargaining proposals, with links to proposed article language.)
- On a separate issue, our union reminded management that at the end of the day on June 30, as many as 200 graduate workers will find themselves without funding, unless management takes immediate measures to address this issue.
- A recurring theme in the exchanges that took place between members of our bargaining committee and representatives of the Office of University Labor Relations (OULR) was whether management is willing to work with the union to enact change. If management is serious about finding solutions to the problems Rutgers faces—which, in other settings, upper-level officials and President Holloway have expressed a desire to do—then they cannot brush aside our contract proposals on narrow and questionably technical grounds. Our contract can help tackle the adjunctification of Rutgers’ faculty, unsafe buildings and working conditions, and the university’s carbon footprint, to name just a couple of priorities. But only if management approaches negotiations and our new contract as an essential tool for achieving change.
I’ll use this space to highlight some specific ideas that our contract proposals advance:
- Under Article 19, Item B.4 would allow employees who carpool to share a single parking permit and transfer it between different vehicles. B.6 would reward commuters who use public transportation, bikes, or their feet to get to campus by providing them with a $400 annual allowance. B.7 calls for the creation of a shuttle between Livingston and Busch campuses and Highland Park, a proposal developed by our Climate Justice Committee. Together, these and other items included in Article 19 represent tangible ways in which Rutgers can move toward meeting goals laid out by the Rutgers Climate Task Force.
- Article 20 covers health and safety. The revised contractual language we are proposing makes significant strides in allowing members to raise grievances when “working conditions are unsafe or unhealthy.” As the Rutgers’ Worst Workspace contest, organized by the union last fall, showcased, there are numerous classrooms, offices, and other buildings on campus where, for instance, mold and mildew pose serious health risks. This article would prevent management from determining unilaterally when a building is safe, and instead call on neutral experts to make these judgments.
- Finally, Article 31 lays out concrete steps to deal with the adjunctification of the university’s labor force. It calls for fifty new full-time faculty to be created and centrally funded by the university each year, and for current qualified PTLs to get priority in filling these positions.
It is inexcusable that management keeps dragging their feet when it comes to finding funding for graduate workers affected by the pandemic. OULR’s excuses about needing more data and analysis are absurd, since we made them aware of this issue months ago. Rutgers has the money, plain and simple. It would cost roughly $9 million to provide an additional year of funding to graduate workers currently in need. By comparison, during the pandemic, the university’s unrestricted reserves grew by more than $300 million.
OULR’s insistence that certain proposals cannot be included in the contract is growing tiresome. But to be honest, this is to be expected from management lawyers who have worked closely with the union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis, and who have been trained to obstruct and delay meaningful bargaining whenever possible. It’s more frustrating that President Holloway and other upper-level managers regularly cite the need to tackle systemic issues such as the adjunctification of the faculty, but they don’t direct OULR to bargain with us with the goal of achieving real transformations. If President Holloway and others refuse to use the power they have, they could at least do us all the favor of halting public performances where they pretend to want change in these areas. We’re smarter than that.
Bargaining is scheduled for next Tuesday, June 28. After this session, there is likely to be a couple weeks’ break. We’ll keep everyone in the loop as the dates for future bargaining sessions are finalized.