Yesterday, three unions at Rutgers University comprising faculty, adjunct faculty and graduate student workers flooded Rutgers’ three campuses to commence the first strike in the 257-year-old school’s history.
“By exercising our right to withhold our labor, we will prove to the administration that we are the university,” said the Rutgers American Association of University Professors-AFT (AAUP-AFT), Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union and AAUP-BHSNJ in a joint statement.
The estimated 9,000 workers out on strike will affect basic school operations for its 67,000-student body across its main campus in New Brunswick (N.J.) and sister campuses in Camden and Newark. However, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway urged students to attend class as they regularly would. Officials also promised Rutgers student residence halls, bus service, dining, counseling and other services would remain open. “The continued academic progress of our students is our number one concern, and we will do all that we can so that their progress is not impeded by a strike,” Holloway said in a statement on Sunday,” wrote Holloway in a public statement on the strike.
With the picket lines up at 9 a.m., however, students who tried to follow Holloway’s guidance, however, found it impossible to ignore.
“I just came from the business school and it’s usually packed on Monday in the morning,” said Rutgers-Newark Business School student Asad Saeed, according to NJ Advance Media. “This morning there’s almost nobody in that building. There’s just like one or two classes going on.”
One month removed from semester finals, NJ Media reports that some professors have made classes virtual for the remainder of the semester.
This is a big turnout at Rutgers Universitypic.twitter.com/lzZyPWKMxO
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The strike is fueled by failed contract negotiations largely around faculty salaries and wages. The school’s proposed “enhanced compensation programs” addressed full-time faculty salary and adjunct faculty job security but it failed to meet their demands, claiming it did not protect Rutger’s lowest-paid workers, such as adjunct faculty and graduate workers.
“There’s been very few back-and-forths with the administration. It’s been a lot of waiting around and a lot of numbers being moved but not a lot of numbers being moved forward. It’s not for lack of trying that we now have to have a strike,” said Dr. Catherine Monteleone, a faculty member on the bargaining committee in an AAUP-AFT virtual town hall meeting. “We’ve done everything to try to get them to negotiate in good faith with us, and it’s just not happening, so we find ourselves here.”
The unions had been working under the conditions of a preexisting contract that expired back in July. Almost all union members were in solidarity with a strike with a 94% approval rating, according to The New York Times.
The president had originally planned to stamp down the strike threatening legal action, but Holloway now seems to be prioritizing reaching an agreement.
The school had closely averted its first union strike back in 2019 after reaching a last-minute deal. The union had originally rejected its contract offer, calling it “insulting,” according to NJ Advance Media.
Gov. Phil Murphy via Twitter offered on Sunday to facilitate private talks between the school and unions in order to prevent the strike, but it fell on deaf ears.