By Paul O’Keefe, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Management has returned from a much-needed spring break (I know the feeling!). Our collective academic crew’s spring break is this week—but no such luck for our bargaining team. Representatives from all academic units were on hand for bargaining sessions on Monday and Wednesday.
- Monday: Discussion and progress towards enabling librarians in our unit to roll over unused vacation days from one year to the next. This was followed shortly after by a campuswide email from the administration informing librarians (and everyone else!) of the conclusion of this discussion. This matter was alluded to in the Wednesday session, and contract language was negotiated to both sides’ satisfaction.
- Monday/Wednesday: Management also agreed to work on and respond to several of our contract articles in the next two weeks. They have agreed to discuss health care costs with the larger Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) that we are part of, indicating a willingness to engage with an issue that repeats itself almost identically across units and unions. One can only encourage management to apply this insight to bargaining in other contexts with all full-time and adjunct faculty, graduate workers (whether TA/GAs or fellows), and postdocs (whether associates or fellows!
- Wednesday: Progress made on clarifying how intra-campus inequality is baked into the existing algorithm that calculates salary equity adjustment offers for faculty. This is an issue remaining from our last contract cycle, and it particularly affects our colleagues in Camden. Management broadly conceded our argument that the formula they use for salary equity adjustments is based on a tautology: under the formula, faculty at Camden ought be paid less because faculty at Camden are currently paid less. Our side offered suggestions to avoid these in-built biases, and we edged toward resolution.
- Wednesday: Progress made towards synchronizing promotion and advancement pathways for full-time non-tenure-track faculty and adjunct faculty. Bryan Sacks, the adjunct union’s vice president, presented proposed changes to adjunct union contract that would reflect the earned advancement a member of either unit deserves, regardless of whether they transition between the two. David Letwin, a member of our team, described how he was unable to get the promotion he was entitled to as an adjunct precisely because he spent a decade being a full-time lecturer at Rutgers! It’s like having 10,000 spoons when all you need is equal pay for equal work.
- Wednesday: Discussion continued about Infosilem/Course Atlas. The broad agreement is that department chairs should have presumed authority for scheduling decisions, but those above can enter the process if necessary. Contract language is still being resolved, but it does seem that we aren’t too far from agreement on this issue. Assuming good faith from all sides, of course!
Bargaining has continued through Spring Break, with our side benefiting from the huge mandate from our members in the strike authorization vote. Progress has been made toward agreement on several articles, but management has yet to fully engage with our fundamental demands: equal pay for equal work on a fractional basis for our adjunct colleagues, along with access to health care and enhanced job security; a significant additional salary increase for graduate workers to lift them closer to a living wage, plus recognition of graduate fellows and access to quality health insurance for all; enhanced academic freedom for everyone in our unit, as well as pathways to more secure forms of non-tenured employment; and a salary increase for all of us (retroactive to July 1, 2022, as is our right!) that reflects the current high inflation rate.
Two sessions occurred this week; I observed both of them, so you didn’t have to. Monday’s session, in particular, was remarkably unproductive. Considering the announcement days before of a definitive vote on strike authorization across our two units (94% yes from the 80% of members who voted), management was curiously quiet. The paltry salary increase offered by the administration earlier this month has, unsurprisingly, failed to mollify our bargaining team. It was positive to see engagement across Rutgers workers in regard to health insurance. It seems, at least for now, that management’s desire for a comprehensive health care solution is similar to CRU’s desire.
Overall, we continue bargaining with an incredibly strong mandate for our demands. But we need to keep pushing through all aspects of the contract before it can be considered for ratification. We are not there now, and our unions still have to determine what steps prepared to take if necessary to achieve our contract demands. We are moving with incredible collective strength and unity, and the only limiting factor on whether we win all our demands is how much we are willing to do to make them real. See you at Picket Line Training!
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.