Takeaway: As the school year begins, we have a lot to talk about as a union! Please read below for important information on:
- Protecting Our Health and Safety
- Campus Chapter Meetings
- Faculty Pay Equity
- Taking Our Struggle Nationwide
Welcome back! We hope you found time this summer to relax and enjoy yourselves. We will need all our strength and solidarity to face the challenges of a school year that is, once again, certain to be like no other. With our return to in-person work in the classrooms and labs threatened by the spread of the Delta variant, we need to be mobilized to protect our health and safety. We’re also entering the final year of our contract. Alongside most of our partners in the Coalition of Rutgers Unions, we will be coming together to draw up our demands and organize to get a strong new contract when our current one expires next June.
The last year was difficult, but we have a lot of accomplishments to be proud of as a union. We reached an agreement in fiscal emergency negotiations that won job protections for staff and adjunct faculty, an improved funding extension program for graduate students, and a schedule for paying the raises that management tried to cancel in June 2020. We stand on strong ground to fight for more this year. We hope you’ll take the time to read through the rest of this long email (we promise they won’t all be this long!) to learn the latest about issues that matter to all of us and organizing priorities in the coming months.
1. Protecting Our Health and Safety
We know your concerns about returning to in-person work are growing every day as the pandemic surges once again, driven by the spread of the Delta variant. Though management regularly boasts about being the first to mandate student vaccination, its preparations for the Fall semester are sorely lacking in other respects.
Back in the Spring, our union’s Executive Council called for vaccines to be required for faculty and postdocs in our bargaining unit, but the administration only started meeting with us about this a few days before the state announced a vaccine mandate that covers Rutgers employees. Promised upgrades to building ventilation systems seem to be uneven at best, and management has so far refused to promise surveillance testing of vaccinated students and employees to identify asymptomatic COVID cases. We are demanding free weekly testing for EVERYONE working or studying in person to guard against the Delta variant spreading to our families and communities, as well as a process to handle requests for remote work on the basis of vulnerable household members.
You need to know how to protect yourself and your household members when you go into classrooms, labs, and libraries. The first place to start is our union’s Health and Safety FAQ, which our staff has just updated with the latest information we have and new answers to our evolving questions. Last week, we held a Health and Safety Town Hall that was attended by well over 100 of you. The presentations from our colleagues and other resources are available in this shared folder. Remember that you have the right to a safe workplace, protected by our strong union contract. If you have any questions you want to discuss with union staff, email us at [email protected], and we’ll get you answers.
2. Chapter Meetings
The strength of our union depends on your active participation. The first chance we’ll have to talk together as a union is at meetings of our three chapters. Please save the date now and join us on Zoom:
- Camden: Monday, September 13, 11:20 a.m. Click here to RSVP
- Newark: Tuesday, September 7, 2 p.m. Click here to RSVP
- New Brunswick: Friday, October 1, 1 p.m. Click here to RSVP
3. Faculty Pay Equity
While they publicly tout their commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Rutgers administration has failed to implement the salary equity program we won in our current contract to address inequities across gender, race, ethnicity, campuses, and other categories. More than 100 of you—the majority from Camden, with its long history of mistreatment by Rutgers—have been waiting for more than two years for equity adjustments, and there are more applications in line behind those early cases.
Our union has been engaged with management to try to ensure a fair and transparent process for the pay equity program. We’re sorry to tell you that we’ve been repeatedly disappointed by management’s lack of urgency and commitment to the same priorities as us. We had hoped to have a fair process in place and equity adjustments in your paychecks months ago, but the administration’s top lawyers and human resources bureaucrats have dragged their feet. We will continue to update you, but it’s clear now that concrete measures to achieve true equity and justice will have to be among our contract demands.
4. Taking Our Struggle Nationwide
We have an opportunity to advance our union’s people-centered agenda at the national level. Congress is considering important higher education reforms and significant funding increases as part of the budget reconciliation process. Please write to your senators and members of Congress and ask them to support reforms that can transform our colleges and universities.
Our union has been working throughout the summer to bring together a coalition of unions and organizations to build support for our priorities. Higher Ed Labor United has been endorsed by 75 unions and organizations representing more than 400,000 higher ed workers around the country. Together, we are working to win the reforms we need in the budget reconciliation process, while also looking ahead to building a longer-term movement to transform higher ed.
We hope you will come to our first Freedom School of the new school year on Thursday, September 2, at 7 p.m., where we will be discussing budget reconciliation and higher ed with members of our own union and others around the country. Click here to RSVP, bring along colleagues and friends, and share the event on Facebook.
Becky and Todd
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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