Making History: Rutgers Road to Strike
For the past month, both students and faculty have been at the edge of their seats awaiting notification to strike against the Rutgers University administration. Although most students were eager to have a day or two off from class and to see some campus action, I think we can all agree that success was made, at least for now. Across campuses, both faculty and graduate students unified together through the Rutgers AAUP-AFT (a union composed of both full-time faculty and graduate students). This past week, an agreement was made between the University and the union, one which helps achieve equality changes that were long overdue.
Little knowledge to some faculty and most students, the negotiations had been going on for nearly a year, as things have been continuously heating up to the point where in the past few weeks, faculty have been getting trained for the picket lines. As many have seen, posters have been hung around the Camden campus urging attendance in the strike in front of certain buildings. The Rutgers union was so close to striking that professors had to start warning their students of the large possibility of losing class time at some point in the week.
Nonetheless, praise we shall the diligent faculty and members of the union for unending, late-night negotiations and fighting for fairness. Despite the disappointment that some students may share, we as a campus should have pride in the way that our faculty and students joined hands on this road to change University-wide. We should be inspired by those around us in the times of the past impending strike, not only because we watched history be made, but because we should learn to not step down when we, or those around us, are being wronged.
For more regarding the contract’s details and the causes of the near-strike, read the statement below from Vivian Fernández, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness:
“Rutgers University announced today that an agreement has been reached between the university and its largest faculty union, the AAUPAFT, on a four-year contract that provides increases in compensation for faculty members, as well as for graduate assistants and teaching assistants; establishes a process to address instances of salary inequity; allows for longer term appointments for non-tenure track faculty; and recognizes the more than $40 million in funding that Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi previously committed to enhance diversity hiring, among other items.
The agreement, which was reached last night after more than a year of negotiations with the bargaining unit, still must be ratified by the more than 4,000-member faculty union.
The university has over the last nine months reached agreements with other employee unions, including:
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 888
- The Fraternal Order of Police Local 164
- International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68
- Teamsters Local 97
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 1761
The compensation package in the four-year agreement mirrors that which was reached with other unions and provides increases of 3 percent in each of the first three years and 2.5 percent in the final year. The agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2018; covered employees will receive retroactive payments once the contract is ratified.
The agreement establishes a pay equity review process that allows faculty to submit requests for salary adjustments where instances of inequity can be demonstrated, including based on gender, race or other factors.
Teaching assistants and graduate assistants will receive market salary adjustments of $2,600 over two years ($1,000 retroactive and $1,600 beginning on July 1, 2019) in order to attract and retain the highest quality graduate students and teaching assistants.
Experienced non-tenure track faculty members may be eligible for longer term appointments under the agreement.
The agreement recognizes the university’s diversity hiring program. Earlier this month President Barchi announced that he has already added $20 million in strategic funding to extend the Rutgers Faculty Diversity Hiring Initiative through June 2024. Since the launch of the initiative in 2016, nearly $22 million has supported hiring 79 new diverse faculty members in Camden, New Brunswick and Piscataway, and Newark, while supporting mentoring and retaining faculty from diverse backgrounds.
The parties agreed to a “side letter” regarding the prerogative of the university in implementing a computerized course scheduling program that will align Rutgers with its peer institutions by creating a system to optimize course scheduling, improve the student experience and minimize the ‘time to graduate’ for students by maximizing course scheduling options. The side letter allows the faculty union to engage with the university in this initiative.
Reaching this agreement, which has been in negotiations since the spring of 2018, is a credit to the hard work and diligence of negotiators from the AAUP-AFT and the Rutgers Labor Negotiating Team led by Lisa Bonick, Assistant Vice President for Academic Labor Relations, and David Cohen, Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.”