Earlier this afternoon, you received a “Second Update on Labor Negotiations” that makes misleading statements about our right to withhold our labor if necessary to win a fair contract and a better Rutgers. We are disappointed that President Holloway chose to misinform the Rutgers community this afternoon—our students included—instead of joining us at the bargaining table to learn the facts about what we are proposing, as we have repeatedly invited him to do.
President Holloway’s letter and his administration’s communications with union leaders over the past several days are intended to intimidate us. But it’s not going to work. Their scare tactics must be confronted with the facts:
- There is no statute outlawing public-sector workers from striking in New Jersey, as we noted in our Strike FAQ and the FAQ for BHSNJ members. We stand by the FAQs, which have been reviewed by our attorneys, who are experts in labor law.
- In some, but not all, instances in the past, New Jersey state courts have issued injunctions requiring public employees to end a strike and return to work. But in all of those cases, the workers still won new contracts.
- In 2018, public school teachers in a number of states where public worker strikes were actually illegal, including West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma, went on strike. In none of these cases was there an attempt to enforce laws in those states against the many thousands of educators who participated.
To repeat: there is no statute in New Jersey that makes a strike by public employees illegal—only courts sometimes enjoin strikes once they occur. If President Holloway and his attorneys were to go to court for such an injunction, they would do so against the will of the “beloved community,” which was expressed unequivocally earlier this month in the overwhelming support for strike authorization.
Our goal is and always has been to bargain a fair contract with the administration so that a strike is unnecessary. But we strongly believe in the right of all workers to withhold their labor in response to unfair and unsafe working conditions. After union members voted to authorize exercising that right, Rutgers responded with anti-labor intimidation tactics.
A work stoppage is always the last resort. But if one happens, the responsibility will lie with the university administration, which for decades has grossly underpaid its adjunct faculty, devastated the libraries through draconian cuts, and damaged our graduate programs by denying graduate workers a livable wage in one of the most expensive regions in the country. Meanwhile, coaches are lavishly compensated, and Rutgers Athletics has been allowed to run up over a quarter billion dollars in debts to internal and external creditors.
Disturbingly, President Holloway sent a similarly misleading message to our undergraduate students in order to divide us. In response, we ask you to please share our Student Strike FAQ to confront his misinformation with the facts.
If President Holloway truly wants to take “appropriate steps to mitigate any possible disruptions,” he should accelerate the pace of bargaining and stop making inadequate counteroffers, such as his latest on salaries that amounts to a wage cut once inflation is taken into account. We are deeply concerned that the administration’s failure to respond to demands by graduate students and adjuncts will have long-term consequences for both undergraduate and graduate education.
In the meantime, we will not be intimidated. Join us this Friday, March 24, at 4 p.m. for a cross-union town hall meeting about our fight for a fair contract; click here to register for the Zoom link. We will continue to focus our attention on negotiations during the lengthy sessions scheduled each day this week. Again, our goal is to achieve a fair contract without a strike.
We want to leave you with some words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoken on the eve of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers:
All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.”…. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.
Officers and Chapter Leaders, Rutgers AAUP-AFT, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, and AAUP-BHSNJ
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Katherine Lloyd, Secretary-Treasurer, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Amy Higer, President, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
Bryan Sacks, Vice President, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
Howie Swerdloff, Secretary, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
Catherine Monteleone, President, AAUP-BHSNJ
Carlos Decena, Vice President for Tenure-Track Faculty, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Carla Katz, Vice President for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Liana Katz, Vice President for Graduate Workers, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Andrés Morera, Vice President for Postdoctoral Associates, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Melissa Vargas Columna, Vice President for EOF Counselors, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Donna Murch, New Brunswick Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Andrew Urban, New Brunswick Chapter Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Manu Chander, Newark Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Kyle Riismandel, Newark Chapter Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Jim Brown, Camden Chapter President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Jamie Dunaev, Camden Chapter Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Caitlin Dudek, Vice President for Newark, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
Hank Kalet, Vice President for New Brunswick, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
Paul More, Vice President for Camden, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union
- Adjunct faculty and grads especially should attend tomorrow’s (Wednesday, March 22) bargaining session; their issues will be highlighted. Via Zoom, starting at 11 a.m. Click here to sign up.
- Join us at a cross-union all-member town hall meeting on Friday, March 24, at 4 p.m. (click here to get the Zoom link), where we will be answering questions about a possible strike and discussing the way forward to a fair contract.
- Come to a training session on building strong, lively, and safe picket lines. Click here to sign up for a one-hour session being held via Zoom at numerous times over the coming two weeks. This is your opportunity to learn what a strike will look like and volunteer for various roles.