1922: The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was founded in 1915 as a professional organization to defend the academic freedom of faculty. Rutgers Professor Stanley Brasefield called to order the first meeting of the Rutgers AAUP Chapter at Rutgers College on November 2, 1922.
1970: Rutgers full-time faculty were among the first in the nation to unionize in 1970, soon after public-sector workers in the United States won the right to collective bargaining. Our first affiliation was with the AAUP.
1972: Graduate student employees—specifically, Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants—were added to the full-time faculty bargaining unit in 1972. Our union is one of the few in the nation to unite these two higher ed labor forces. The TA/GA Steering Committee within our union allows graduate student workers to come together to articulate their issues; steering committee members serve on the union’s Executive Council and various union committees, including the Negotiating Committee and Organizing and Action Team.
1988: A second bargaining unit, affiliated nationally with the AAUP, was created by adjunct (Part-Time Lecturer) faculty in 1988, when this group of employees voted for collective bargaining rights. Adjuncts have a separate contract specific to their terms and conditions of employment. In 2022, Adjuncts voted in favor of a proposal to merge into the full-time unit.
1989: Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) counselors voted for collective bargaining rights in 1989 as part of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. EOF counselors are a small number of full-time staff who have their own separate contract, but they are included as members of the bargaining unit with the full-time faculty and grad workers. Non-tenure-track faculty are also included in the full-time bargaining unit, including those who are grant-funded and state-funded.
2005: In 2005, union members voted in favor of dual affiliation with another national organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This dual affiliation has facilitated joint organizing campaigns and a stronger higher ed workforce united on issues of concern at Rutgers.
2011: Union members who teach during the Winter Session and/or Summer Session ratified the first contract in 2011, covering their work during these two time periods that are not considered part of the “regular” academic year by the Rutgers administration.
2012: Postdoctoral associates voted to unionize in 2011 and ratified their first contract in February 2012. This same year, during the policy debate about restructuring higher education in New Jersey in 2012, our union fought to keep Rutgers University one united university—and won.
2013: After a yearlong, mid-contract battle led by non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty, our union secured a 43 percent salary increase in the minimum wage for NTTs, along with paths to promotion and multiyear contracts of up to three years. This battle raised the sights of our members, who began to form a department rep structure to prepare for bigger fights to come. We ran this radio ad across New Jersey, placing the issue of precarity at Rutgers on the front burner.
2014–15: Uniting with unions representing our staff, medical, and maintenance worker colleagues, our union led a successful campaign to alter the “subject to” language in all of our contracts that had allowed the administration to freeze salaries in 2011. The administration retained the right to declare a fiscal emergency, but under stricter conditions.
2016–18: As part of our union’s efforts to energize and organize members, Rutgers AAUP-AFT launched a series of successful issue campaigns that took on the growing move toward corporate metrics and analytics as means to gauge our members’ work and careers. Employing energetic member-organizer efforts, social media, informational pickets, rallies at the Board of Governors, and other public events, we successfully defeated attempts to impose Academic Analytics as an arbitrary measure of our members’ work. We also pushed back along with staff colleagues against reorganization plans that would have robbed our faculty of governance over research and teaching.
2018–19: Our local waged an 18-month-long contract campaign to win a historic contract that included a requirement for salary equity across categories of race, gender, and campus, among others. On the brink of what would have been Rutgers’ first-ever strike in its 253 years, faculty and grad workers clinched major gains on pay equity, job security and dignity.
2020–21: Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, we united with sibling unions in the Coalition of Rutgers Unions to propose a people-centered alternative to protect the vulnerable and ensure a future for Rutgers. The administration declared another “fiscal emergency” in Spring 2020 as a justification for laying off more than 1,000 staff and canceling the raises of union workers. Ten months later, members ratified an agreement with the university that barred further staff layoffs, ended the hiring freeze on adjunct faculty, improved a graduate funding extensions program, and won back our raises.
2022: With our contract due to expire on June 30, 2022, our union launched an ambitious campaign to win a strong contract and #TheRutgersWeDeserve.