Rutgers Students, Faculty, and Staff Join Together with Climate Justice and Community Activists
Schedule for Friday, September 23:
- 11 a.m.: Rally: No New Fossil Fuel Projects in NJ! Monument Park, 318 George St., New Brunswick
- 12 noon: Rally: We R the University! Rutgers-New Brunswick campus, outside Alexander Library, 169 College Ave.
- 1 p.m.: Rally and March: No Dirty Pipeline Deal! Start at the “We R the University” rally; march to US Rep. Frank Pallone’s Office, 67 Church St.; end at New Brunswick City Hall, 78 Bayard St.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University students, faculty, graduate workers, and staff will join together with environmental organizations on Friday, September 23, for a day of speakouts, rallies, and marches for climate justice and strong, fair contracts for Rutgers’ 19,000 union employees.
“Our different organizations and unions all chose this day to send a message to the Rutgers administration and to political officeholders, so we’re working together to support each other,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty, graduate workers, and others. “Students have been organizing for climate justice measures, and they need to be heard. The contracts for our unions at Rutgers expired nearly three months ago—we need the administration to act on our proposals with the same urgency we feel.”
The day’s events will start with an 11 a.m. rally calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to block proposals for seven major fossil fuel projects that are on the table in New Jersey.
“We are calling on Governor Murphy to fulfill his climate and environmental justice commitments by using his authority to stop all new fossil fuel projects in New Jersey,” said Matthew Smith, New Jersey state director of Food and Water Watch. “The seven current proposals include polluting power plants in environmental justice communities, massive gas pipeline expansions, and a disastrous LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] export facility on the Delaware River in Gibbstown.”
At 12 noon, the climate justice activists will join a speakout on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus jointly organized by student organizations and campus unions under the theme “We R the University!”
The rally will precede President Jonathan Holloway’s annual “State of the University” address to the University Senate at 1:10 p.m. Organizers say union members and student activists will talk about “the real state of the university”—and what changes are needed to achieve a better Rutgers.
Contracts for many of Rutgers’ unions expired on June 30, so the unions are bringing numerous issues to the 12 noon rally.
“The Rutgers administration isn’t responding to the proposals unions have put forward to meet the needs of the people who make our university work,” said Amy Higer, president of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC). “For example, Rutgers chooses to pay its 2,700 adjunct faculty members—who teach 30 percent of Rutgers undergraduate courses and tens of thousands of students every semester—less than a living wage. Why does Rutgers deny completely reasonable demands, like equal pay for equal work?”
Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, which represents administrative staff, agreed. “While we continue to provide exemplary service to all students, faculty, and our communities, we are working under an expired contract,” O’Connell said. “It rings hollow when our work is not valued with a fair contract.”
RU Progressive, a Rutgers student organization, is pressing its calls for more and better bike lanes on Rutgers campuses, a sped-up bus electrification program and a ban on new diesel buses, an Office of Climate Action with more power and funding, and adequate solar paneling on all possible campus buildings, parking lots, and newly constructed buildings.
“We need to continue advocating for sincere and equitable climate action and for the university and our host city to fulfill their social, moral, and environmental responsibilities,” said Alexandria Haris, president of RU Progressive. “Students are paying a lot more attention to what the university is choosing to do and choosing not to do in response to climate change, and we are making it known. As the phrase goes, ‘There is no Planet B.’”
After the campus rally, climate justice activists will lead a march to New Brunswick City Hall to emphasize their calls for climate reforms at the city level: expand city bike lanes and build more; incorporate green affordable housing with solar-ready roofs; oppose the proposed gas power plant in Woodbridge, NJ; and install community gardens in each neighborhood.
On the way, marchers plan to call attention to the permitting “reform” deal being pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin (W. Va.) with a stop at US Rep. Frank Pallone’s office.
“This legislation is a massive giveaway to fossil fuel polluters that have pushed to weaken environmental reviews for years,” said Carol Gay, president of the New Jersey Industrial Union Council. “The draft bill requires a constantly updated list of projects that will be placed on the fast track, limiting public input and necessary environmental review. Any future White House that seeks to do special favors for the fossil fuel industry would have broad executive authority to force the construction of new fracking pipelines, power plants, and methane export facilities. The legislation would also hamstring the White House in efforts to curtail new fossil fuel infrastructure development sufficient to meet agreed-upon climate goals. Our representative, Frank Pallone, must speak up strongly and swiftly against this massive rollback of public health and environmental protections.”
Among the organizations participating in the days events are: RU Progressive, a Rutgers-New Brunswick student organization; the climate justice group Food and Water Watch; Rutgers One, a student and labor coalition; Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, representing faculty classified as part-time lecturers; the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, representing administrative staff; AAUP-BHSNJ, representing medical faculty at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) facilities; Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5094, representing professional staff on RBHS campuses; and the Committee of Interns and Residents-SEIU, representing doctors-in-training at Rutgers and across the state.
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