Administration Is Still Dragging Its Feet with a Month Left in the School Year, Leaders Say
Interview Availabilities and Press Conference
Wednesday, March 29, 2:45 p.m., outside Cook Campus Center (59 Biel Rd., New Brunswick)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Members and leaders of unions at Rutgers University will speak to the media at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29, about their goals for achieving new contracts, the status of negotiations, and votes to authorize strikes in several unions.
The press conference will be held outside Cook Campus Center (59 Biel Rd.), where a top Rutgers administrator will be giving a presentation on the university’s finances—and facing questions from union members who believe Rutgers has the money to afford fair contracts.
A dozen unions representing over 15,000 people are still seeking new contracts with just a month left in the school year. Union leaders say the Rutgers administration has dragged out bargaining for nearly a year, ignoring some union proposals and making inadequate counteroffers on others. Members are fed up and determined to do whatever it takes, said Amy Higer, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union.
“It’s been a year and half since we’ve had a raise, and we’ve been trying to negotiate a new contract since last summer,” Higer said. “We’re asking for very reasonable things: salaries commensurate with those who teach the same courses as we do; minimal job security and stability for long-serving adjuncts; and access to affordable health insurance for those who need it. Yet the administration refuses to take our core demands seriously. Our members are out of patience.”
Three unions represented at the press conference have voted to authorize strikes if necessary to win fair contracts: Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents so-called Part-Time Lecturers; and AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents physicians, researchers, and health sciences faculty. Some 94 percent of members who cast ballots in these unions voted to authorize a strike if necessary to achieve their contract goals.
AAUP-BHSNJ’s ballot was the largest strike authorization vote by doctors anywhere in the country in the past 40 years, according to union researchers. AAUP-BHSNJ members would continue to perform patient care duties and essential research in the event of a strike, even as they would curtail voluntary duties.
“While we don’t want to go on strike, our members are overwhelmingly prepared to take this next step after working without a contract for eight months,” said AAUP-BHSNJ President Dr. Catherine Monteleone. “The Rutgers administration has the power to avert any job action by coming to the table now and presenting serious proposals that respect our members and put us on the path to a stronger Rutgers, where every one of our members is valued.”
Two other unions seeking new contracts will be represented at the press conference: the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT (URA), which represents administrative staff throughout the Rutgers system, and the Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU (CIR), which represents resident physicians.
URA President Christine O’Connell said union members worked and sacrificed to maintain vital operations at Rutgers through COVID and beyond. “Our demands include a fair raise that offsets record inflation, better compensation for overwork, and making telework permanent and available to all,” O’Connell said. “Rutgers should honor the work and contributions of the entire ‘beloved community,’ as President Holloway calls it, and recognize that without URA’s contribution, their coaches, senior vice presidents, and others wouldn’t be able to report their accomplishments.”
Rutgers resident physician and CIR Delegate Dr. Tzeidel Eichenberg said residents “are simply sick of being told to wait for the fair pay and benefits that are rightfully ours, even as we work around the clock to care for New Jersey. The well-being of Rutgers workers ensures the health care and education of this state we love. It’s appalling that we are still waiting for a fair contract.”
The press conference will take place outside Cook Campus Center, where Rutgers Chief Financial Officer J. Michael Gower is scheduled to give a presentation on the university’s financial situation. Union leaders expect Gower to repeat his contention that Rutgers is facing deficit budgets that will require spending cuts to balance the budget.
But members plan to attend and insist that Rutgers’ strong financial position coming out of the pandemic makes it possible to meet their demands:
- As Higer and Rutgers AAUP-AFT President Rebecca Givan wrote in a recent op-ed article, in the last two school and fiscal years, Rutgers officials predicted the worst-ever operating deficits in their budgets at the start of the year—and ended up with record operating surpluses at the end of the year.
- The unions estimate their proposal to lift woefully underpaid graduate workers toward a living wage with a first-year salary increase of over 20 percent would cost Rutgers around $14 million. Rutgers Athletics pays just its coaches twice as much.
- The proposal to pay adjunct professors at the same rate per credit hour as non-tenure-track faculty members making the minimum salary—in other words, equal pay for equal work—would cost $20 million, according to union estimates. That’s a tiny fraction of the administration’s unrestricted financial reserves, which hit a record high of $818.6 million, according to Rutgers’ most recent financial report.
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