After nearly a year of deadlocked contract discussions, three unions representing over 9,000 Rutgers University teachers and staff will go on strike Monday morning, marking the first educator strike in the university’s nearly 257-year existence, according to the unions.
Union representatives issued a unified statement saying that members of the unions will be forming picket lines at Rutgers’ three main campuses in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden, New Jersey, in order to pressure the university to grant their demands.
“Those closest to our learning and to the university’s mission to teaching, research and service deserve more than to merely be surviving and scraping by,” Rutgers masters student Michelle O’Malley said during a virtual town hall Sunday night.
Part-time lecturers are represented by the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, full-time professors and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and counselors are represented by the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, and faculty who teach in the university’s medical and public health facilities are represented by the AAUP-BHSNJ.
Union organizers believe that classes and “non-critical research” will be canceled as a result of the strike, but the institution maintains that most classes will go on as scheduled. University health center clinicians “will continue to execute patient care tasks and important research while reducing voluntary activities,” according to a union release.
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In event of a strike, the institution printed guidelines instructing students to proceed with classes and homework as usual. “To say this is very disappointed would be an understatement,” Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway wrote to the local community. Two days before the strike was called, the two parties reportedly agreed to select a mediator.
“For the past several weeks, negotiations have been constant and continuous,” the president said. “Significant and substantial progress has been made, as I have noted, and I believe that there are only a few outstanding issues.
We will, of course, negotiate for as long as it takes to reach agreements and will not engage in personal attacks or misinformation.” Nonetheless, the union’s representatives maintain that their primary demands have been ignored by the university.
“After sitting at the bargaining table for 10 months trying to win what we believe to be fair and reasonable things, like fair pay, job security, and access to affordable health care, and getting virtually nowhere on these core demands, we had no choice but to vote to strike,” Amy Higer, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers and president of the Adjunct Faculty Union, said in a statement.
She continued, “We’ve heard management say that a strike will harm students. But you know what really harms students? The high turnover that results from paying teachers poorly and making them reapply for their jobs every semester.”
In a statement, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy invited the bargaining committees from the state’s universities and labor unions to his office on Monday “to have a fruitful discourse.” According to the announcement sent by the unions, there are a total of nine unions at the university seeking new contracts.
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