“We Deserve Equity, Respect, and Safe Staffing”
WHAT: Union rally during the Board of Governors meeting
WHEN: Thursday, October 5, starting at 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Rutgers-Newark, Robeson Campus Center, 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., on the campus side
NEWARK, NJ—Unions representing educators, researchers, and clinicians at Rutgers University and nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) will send a message to the Rutgers Board of Governors when it meets at Rutgers-Newark on Thursday, October 5: “Students, Workers, Patients, Community: We Deserve Equity, Respect, and Safe Staffing.”
Rutgers-Newark students, faculty, graduate workers, and others plan to walk out of classes when the period ends at 11:20 a.m. and then gather for a picket and rally in front of Robeson Campus Center. They’ll be joined by union members from Rutgers-New Brunswick, striking nurses from RWJUH, resident physicians who work at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) facilities, and others.
The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet inside Robeson Campus Center, starting at 12 p.m. Rally organizers say union members will attend the meeting when the Board’s open session begins at 1 p.m. Click here for information on the Governors’ meeting, including a webinar link.
Rally organizers say they plan to voice numerous grievances that continued building over the summer, despite the resolution of the historic strike last spring by three unions representing educators, researchers, clinicians, and counselors. The swelling discontent with President Jonathan Holloway’s administration led to a vote of no confidence in Holloway’s leadership by the Rutgers University Senate. The no-confidence resolution passed 89 to 47 on September 22.
“We continue to be disappointed with the unwillingness of President Holloway’s administration and the Board of Governors to participate in meaningful shared governance of this university,” said Bryan Sacks, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents adjunct lecturers at Rutgers. “They were obliged to seek the approval of the University Senate before agreeing to the medical school merger, and yet they ignored its guidance. That’s unacceptable. Even worse is their non-responsiveness to RWJ nurses, who have been on strike for two months now, demanding a safer environment for their patients.”
The Board will be meeting on Rutgers’ Newark campus, where President Holloway stirred anger and criticism in August when he announced the removal of Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, despite widespread support from students, faculty, and the Newark community, led by Mayor Ras Baraka.
“Chancellor Cantor’s removal symbolizes everything we are challenging at Rutgers—an unaccountable administration that doesn’t care about what the people who make our university run think,” said Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents more than 5,000 full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdocs, and counselors.
“We had to go on strike to get the administration’s attention last spring. We think the agreements we bargained will make a better Rutgers for everyone. But rather than abide by those agreements, the administration is violating them at every step—and on top of that, they pushed through a cruel and unnecessary tuition increase that puts new burdens on our students.”
Striking nurses from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick will join the rally to put pressure on RWJBarnabas Health CEO Mark Manigan, who also sits on the Rutgers Board of Governors. The nurses have been on strike for nearly two months to try to win safe nurse-to-patient ratios. But hospital management has rejected their proposals—while spending $76.2 million and counting on replacement nurses and cutting off the strikers’ health insurance a month ago.
“While our nurses have been ready to talk for weeks, hospital executives have refused to negotiate and are instead spending tens of millions of dollars on strikebreaking nurses in a failed attempt to weaken our resolve,” said Judy Danella, president of United Steelworkers Local 4-200, which represents the 1,700 striking nurses. “It’s time for corporate executives at RWJBarnabas to stop putting profits over patients and negotiate a fair contract that includes enforceable patient safety provisions.”
Diomedes Tsitouras, executive director of AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents biomedical faculty at RBHS facilities—including the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick—emphasized that RWJBarnabas and the Rutgers administration work closely together, so Rutgers unions see the nurses’ fight as their own.
“It’s imperative that nurses have safe staffing ratios so that patients are properly cared for,” Tsitouras said. “It’s outrageous that in order to break a strike, RWJUH overstaffed the hospital with outside nurses, while at the same time claiming they can’t meet the ratios proposed by the union as a part of contract negotiations.”
Members of the Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU, which represents resident physicians in RBHS and other facilities across the state, will also be on hand to raise a demand that was rejected by the Rutgers administration during contract negotiations in the spring: significant improvements in mental health care benefits for overworked residents.
“With resident physician well-being in crisis nationwide and alarming rates of depression and suicide among physicians undergoing training, Rutgers must not wait to support CIR physicians with our ask for a very basic mental health benefit,” said Dr. Tzeidel Eichenberg, a CIR delegate. “We’re proud to stand with our fellow Rutgers workers demanding what we all need to be well and fighting to hold this university accountable to the people of New Jersey.”
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