My college, Rutgers University, is 253 years old and has an abundance of notable alumni ranging from the Sopranos’ James Gandolfini to politician Elizabeth Warren. Yet, it is not receiving attention in the news and on campus because of its history and alumni. It has received news that, for the first time in its history, to prevent the first ever strike, the Rutgers administration has agreed to the demands of grad student teachers and professors to receive better wages, close the gender wage gap, and guarantee a workplace free of harassment and stalking. There are three main Rutgers campuses, located in New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.
The Newark campus of Rutgers University has made headlines due to a teacher strike that occurred outside of where the governing board met at the Paul Robeson Campus Center. Reportedly, for three hours on Tuesday, union members and supporters picketed outside the building as the governing board met for the last time this semester.
Contracts for 26 labor unions ended in July. That means since then, teachers within the university and in these unions are working without contract. Six unions have reached new agreements with the university that includes a 3 percent increase in the next three years and a 2.5 percent raise in the final year.
However, Rutgers American Association of University Professors American Federation of of Teachers (AAUP-AFT Rutgers) is the largest union on campus for full time professors and graduate students who are teaching. They were the organizers of the picketing last Tuesday and they are the union that has not had its demands met. The picketing was a final warning to Rutgers President Barchi and his administration to acknowledge the university’s demands after a year of negotiations, before the faculty goes officially on strike.
This discussion of a strike was important because it would have been the first strike in the history of Rutgers’ 235 years as a university. This may have been important because it would be the first strike of tenured faculty that will occur at a Big Ten University. But it is important because Rutgers is an acclaimed and well-known university that until recently did not offer the most basic rights to its faculty and grad student teachers.
In an overwhelming vote, full-time faculty members and grad students voted for a strike to occur if President Barchi does not meet their demands. Their demands? More full-time faculty due to the overwhelming increase of students, more librarians to keep the library system better organized, addressing equal pay for female staff, more staff diversity, and a salary increase for graduate student workers. Seemingly simple demands, if not met by President Barchi, the New Brunswick University will strike.
Senator Cory Booker has tweeted support on the manner.
Educators at every level of our education system deserve better. I support the Rutgers AAUP-AFT in this fight for equality & dignity. Rutgers faculty are on the front lines every day for their students—we should all be united in the movement to support them.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) April 9, 2019
Senator Bernie Sanders has voiced his support on the matter.
I stand with AAUP-AFT Rutgers professors who are prepared to strike in order to defend affordable, quality higher education. When we organize and stand together, we win. #UnionStrong https://t.co/cbgbjfpWox
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 9, 2019
If a public state university with a historical and interesting record that makes it well-known internationally such as Rutgers University is only now fixing its wrongs and is resisting to admit that it needs improvements, higher education is truly in need of change. Rutgers and all universities like it offers many opportunities to young people in a way that is truly beneficial. But, it is time for colleges to treat their faculty the same.
Photo: Rebecca Panicco