“All We’ve Heard in Negotiations Is No—or Nothing at All”
When: Tuesday, December 6, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Meet at Voorhees Mall (between Murray and Van Dyck Halls, off College Avenue, New Brunswick) and march to Winants Hall (7 College Ave.)
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Hundreds of Rutgers University faculty, staff, and students are mobilizing on all three main campuses Tuesday, December 6, to send a message to the administration and Board of Governors as the Governors meet: the people who make Rutgers work want fair union contracts now.
The largest unions at Rutgers have been in negotiations for over six months for new agreements to replace the ones that expired this summer. But union leaders say all they’ve heard is “no or nothing at all” from the administration about the unions’ major proposals for contracts that will govern their salaries, benefits, and working conditions for the next four years.
“We made a series of proposals last spring around critical issues and needs that will make a better Rutgers for everyone—our students, staff, grad workers, faculty, our communities,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents more than 5,000 full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors. “It’s completely unacceptable that the administration has dragged its feet for months in even talking about our main demands.”
The unions are working together, along with student and community allies, to raise their voices as the Board of Governors and top-level administrators meet in New Brunswick on December 6. Mobilizations are planned on the Camden and Newark campuses and the College Avenue and Busch campuses in New Brunswick/Piscataway (details and times below).
The largest turnout is expected on the College Avenue campus, where hundreds of professors and graduate workers will ask their students to join them at 11:30 a.m. for a speakout on the main campus mall, followed by a march to the building where the Board of Governors is meeting. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, will be featured speakers.
Givan pointed to research by union members showing that Rutgers came out of the pandemic in its best financial shape ever, thanks to COVID relief funds from the federal government and strong state appropriations—at the same time that the administration laid off well over 1,000 workers and imposed budget cuts.
“We all sacrificed during the pandemic, and meanwhile, the administration was sitting on a growing pile of money,” Givan said. “That’s money that has to be used now to meet the urgent needs that are so glaringly obvious. Rutgers works because we do. And we have the power to make it stop working, too, if that’s what it takes to get the administration to pay attention.”
Amy Higer, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC), which represents some 2,700 Part-Time Lecturers (PTLs, as adjunct faculty are known at Rutgers), said the administration has failed for months to respond to the union’s proposals for greater job security and the same pay per credit hour for doing the same teaching work as full-time faculty.
“Rutgers PTLs teach tens of thousands of students every semester,” Higer said. “We teach the exact same courses as full-time faculty, and yet we’re paid a fraction of what they earn. Our students often see no difference between us and full-time faculty members, but Rutgers’ top administrators treat us as disposable. Enough is enough. It’s time to increase the pressure.”
Dr. Catherine Monteleone, president of AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents 1,500 medical faculty in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences facilities across the state, said the union wants a contract that stops the administration from hiring nonunion faculty through Rutgers’ association with RWJBarnabas Health to replace unionized faculty.
“Rutgers has met with us exactly three times since our contract expired at the end of July—nearly four months ago,” Monteleone said. “The administration is clearly not interested in good faith negotiations.”
The staff members who keep academic departments and programs running have their own demands, said Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, which represents some 2,500 administrative staff throughout the Rutgers system.
“Outside of salary improvements to keep up with the rapidly rising cost of living in New Jersey, some of our primary issues are telework and overwork,” said O’Connell. “We want a flexible, employee-led process for telework that reflects what a staff member’s duties and responsibilities actually are at Rutgers—as opposed to the one-size-fits-all program Rutgers implemented. Additionally, our members are taking on a significantly greater volume of work, due to retention and recruitment problems at Rutgers, with no additional compensation. We want clear definitions and methods to compensate our members when there are vacancies and additional work is reassigned to them.”
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Location details on December 6
New Brunswick, 11:30 a.m.: Meet at Voorhees Mall (between Murray and Van Wyck Halls, off College Avenue) and march to Winants Hall (7 College Ave.)
Camden, 12:30 p.m.: Meet outside Camden Campus Center (326 Penn St.)
Newark, 11:30 a.m.: Meet outside Robeson Campus Center (350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.)
Piscataway, 11:30 a.m.: Meet between the Richard Weeks Hall of Engineering and McLaren Center for Ceramics Research