Rutgers University Faculty Strike: Why Rutgers Faculty Members are on Strike?

Rutgers University Strike
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In a historic move, three prominent unions representing a staggering 9,000 full- and part-time faculty members at Rutgers University have declared a strike, marking the first time in the institution’s 257-year-long legacy. This unprecedented action has brought classes and research to an immediate standstill, affecting an estimated 67,000 students across the state. Negotiations between the University’s management have entered the second day as of today, April 12, 2022, but both parties are nowhere near reconciliation.

Why are Rutgers Professors Striking?

Rutgers University Faculty Strike
Photo by Ted Shaffrey/AP

The three unions that have initiated the first-ever Rutgers University strike are doing so because, for nearly a year of extensive negotiations, the university officials and union representatives have failed to reach an agreement on a multitude of critical issues, including the equitable treatment of untenured adjunct faculty members and graduate workers and a much-needed pay raise.

While workers formed picket lines across Rutgers University’s three primary campuses located in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden, representatives from both the university and the unions convened at the state capital, Trenton, after an invitation from Governor Phil Murphy to negotiate. Despite the optimistic setting, tensions remained high as the unions continued to protest for their demands, causing widespread disruption to the institution’s usual operations.

On Monday, more than a hundred students and faculty members united to protest on a street corner adjacent to Rutgers University’s primary campus located in New Brunswick. Amongst the demonstrators was Michelle Ling, a 24-year-old graduate student studying women, gender, and sexuality studies. In a powerful statement, Ling advocated for the rights of graduate workers and adjunct faculty members, acknowledging that they “both hold this university up.”

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Ling, who herself earns a mere $30,000 annually on a nine-month contract teaching at Rutgers, went on to highlight the challenging plight of many graduate students who are forced to juggle multiple jobs or rely on public assistance to make ends meet. These compelling anecdotes emphasize the urgent need for reforms that would improve the livelihood of Rutgers University’s academic community.

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway expressed his dissatisfaction on Sunday following notifications of plans by union representatives prior to the commencement of the strike. According to a letter that he directed to the Rutgers Community, Holloway said, “To say that this is deeply disappointing would be an understatement, especially given that just two days ago, both sides agreed in good faith to the appointment of a mediator to help us reach agreements. We have all been hard at work trying to resolve issues around compensation, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. For the past several weeks, negotiations have been constant and continuous. 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.”

Holloway also added that the university’s management has proposed nearly a 20% increase in the per-credit salary for part-time lecturers and for winter/summer instructors over the four years of the contract. The letter also claimed Rutgers University has decided to raise the minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows and associates in the faculty union by more than 20 percent.

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Rutgers University strike
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Despite these claims, union representatives remain adamant about their stance. Professor Nancy Wolff, a distinguished professor at Rutgers since 1992 and the current Director of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research said “It’s embarrassing how the University has treated our labor team and how protracted these contractual discussions have been — we just don’t treat each other like that.”

There have been several reactions and solidarity support for Rutgers striking professors from congressmen to former alumni and much more. It remains to see whether the aggrieved parties and Rutgers University would come to an agreement over the contentions that resulted in the strike action. But as things stand, students of RU have classes and research disrupted.

 

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