March 19, 2019, NEW BRUNSWICK, NEWARK, and CAMDEN, NJ—In a majority vote, 88%, of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty and graduate employee union voted to authorize the leadership to call a strike. If the union goes on strike, this would be the first strike of faculty and graduate workers in the 253-year history of Rutgers University. It would also be the first strike of tenured faculty at a Big 10 university.
David Hughes, the vice-president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT and the chair of the bargaining committee, said that “the Union wants to reach an agreement at the bargaining table. If this does not work, the Union is prepared to go on strike.”
“After a year of negotiations our faculty and graduate employees are fed up with the Barchi administration and have given us the authorization to strike. We are fighting to increase the full-time faculty to student ratio to defend quality public education. We are fighting for equal pay for equal work for female faculty. And we are fighting to raise the salaries of our lowest paid members, teaching assistants who have not seen a raise since 2013 and who earn $26,000 a year,” said Deepa Kumar, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
"I am a Ph.D. student who has three part-time jobs at Rutgers. I earn $15,000 per semester, and I spend $2,000 per month on health insurance. This is really hard for me and my family. I support the demands for health care for part-time faculty and job security for graduate workers," said Sheena Raja, a Ph.D. student at Rutgers in New Brunswick.
The Union is fighting to hire more full-time faculty to improve the student-faculty ratio, as well as librarians, whose positions are currently in jeopardy due to proposed budget cuts to the library system.
“In 1998, Rutgers employed 2,123 full-time tenure-track faculty to teach 35,705 undergraduate students. Twenty years later, Rutgers employs almost the same workforce of tenure-track faculty – 2,110 – but the undergrad body is now 49,861. This has translated into larger class sizes. It also has meant that Rutgers has hired close to 3,000 part-time faculty who are paid $5,100 per course to teach our students," said Rudy Bell, a Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University.
“Rutgers Cooperative Extension faculty use our knowledge and resources to help New Jersey’s urban, suburban and rural communities. For example, we help youth-at-risk to develop workplace readiness skills, we help struggling farmers preserve their livelihood, and we help break families’ cycles of chronic illness through health and wellness practices,” said Ellen Williams, Associate Professor, 4-H Youth Development Department, Rutgers University.
"Yet, Rutgers has reduced the number of Extension faculty and is failing in its mission as a land grant university," said Kumar. "We aim to increase these faculty and to uphold our commitment to the public of New Jersey."
"Among Big Ten universities, Rutgers has the highest number of underpaid part-time lecturers, none of whom are afforded health insurance by the university," she continued. "The AAUP-AFT is also fighting for equal pay for equal work for part-time faculty and for female faculty. The Union is seeking job security for graduate employees and Non-Tenure Track faculty, and raises above the cost of living to recruit and retain top-notch educators."
See the Union’s full list of priorities here: http://equitysecuritydignity.org/our-campaign/
The Rutgers AAUP-AFT full-time bargaining unit represents 4,800 full-time faculty and graduate workers. This does not include the union’s 3,000 part-time lecturers, 500+ PostDocs and 25 Educational Opportunity Fund counselors who are covered under separate contracts. Founded in 1970, Rutgers AAUP-AFT continues to work to ensure public access to high-quality and affordable higher education in New Jersey.