“An injury to one is an injury to all!”
“Rutgers is for education! We are not a corporation!”
The chants of frustrated faculty members disrupted an otherwise quiet campus in Newark on Tuesday, as hundreds gathered outside of the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Center to picket the board of governors meeting.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the school’s largest faculty and graduate employee union, organized Tuesday’s picket as a "final warning" to Rutgers University President Robert Barchi and his administration. After more than a year of negotiations, the Barchi administration refuses to meet the union’s demands for a fair contract.
AAUP-AFT’s demands include more full-time faculty, equal pay for female staff, increased staff diversity and a salary increase for graduate workers. The union is also pushing for the school to hire more librarians—a position that is currently in jeopardy due to proposed budget cuts to the library system.
While members protested outside the Paul Robeson Center, union officials and labor leaders brought the fight inside to the board of governors. Among the first to speak at the meeting was Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
"The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is proud of the women and men of Rutgers represented by our unions—20,000 strong—and the great work that they do in front of classrooms, in research laboratories, advising government or in keeping the campuses safe and clean," Brennan said. "We demand that Rutgers University remain a source for fair, dignified union jobs and equal pay for workers from all backgrounds."
"Equity. Security. Dignity.," she added. "These aren’t outrageous demands. These are our basic rights as working people, and we demand that our concerns be acknowledged and addressed by this board at the bargaining table."
Rutgers AAUP-AFT’s lowest-paid members face poverty-level wages and little assurance of professional advancement. Recent studies show faculty on the school’s New Brunswick campus are paid at a significantly higher rate than their peers at Camden and Newark. Moreover, female faculty members on each campus are paid at a lower rate than their male peers with the same years of experience.
In March, an overwhelming majority of the 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.
The AAUP-AFT full-time and teaching and graduate assistant unit is only one of a coalition of labor unions currently bargaining with Rutgers. These locals represent over 19,000 workers at Rutgers, including HPAE, URA, AAUP—Medical, PTL, EOF, CIR and CWA.