Threat of Work Stoppage Remains if Rutgers Administration Doesn’t Finalize Agreement
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Unions at Rutgers University, including three that were on strike last week and a fourth that has begun the process of authorizing a strike, will picket outside a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Winants Hall (7 College Ave., New Brunswick) this Thursday.
While New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, union leaders, and the Rutgers administration announced a framework for a historic labor agreement over the weekend after marathon negotiations in Trenton, the administration has dragged its feet in negotiating the final pieces of contracts covering educators, researchers, and clinicians, said union leaders.
Now, as the Board of Governors prepares to meet, union members are rallying to demand that the administration address issues left open under the framework that have to be resolved before they have a tentative agreement to send to members to vote on. With just a week before finals start and a few days after the unions voted to suspend strike action, the threat of a resumed work stoppage remains.
“It shouldn’t have been necessary to go on strike last week,” said Amy Higer, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents Part-Time Lecturers at Rutgers. “We should have been able to negotiate our contracts without having to get in the streets.”
“But we have shown that when we withhold our labor, we are powerful,” Higer said. “I hope we can complete these contracts without having to resume our work stoppage, but we know how to do that now. I don’t think our members would be reluctant to exercise that kind of power again if management doesn’t work with us to complete these agreements.”
Meanwhile, the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, representing 2,500 administration staff across the Rutgers system and the largest of nine other Rutgers unions that are still seeking new contracts, is asking members to pledge if they will vote in a ballot to authorize a strike.
Among the three unions that took job actions last week, AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents 1,300 essential health care workers, including medical faculty who served on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, is still trying to win agreements on numerous open contract issues.
“We’re asking for basic things that other full-time faculty at Rutgers have, like a parental leave policy so we don’t have use sick time and protection against detenuring,” said AAUP-BHSNJ President Dr. Catherine Monteleone. “These aren’t luxuries; these are essential to our members.”
Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents some 5,000 full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and EOF counselors, said members were eager to see a full tentative agreement covering all the issues that the unions raised when bargaining began almost a year ago.
“After more than 10 months without a contract and a historic week-long strike, it’s time for the administration to follow through and agree to the just demands of the people who make Rutgers work,” Givan said.
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