Rutgers, Union Reach Agreement — Students Back In Classes

By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern

Photo credit: Rutgers-Camden.

CAMDEN, N.J. – After five days of Rutgers University’s professors and graduate students picketing for increased wages and rights of untenured adjunct faculty members, Rutgers Administration and the three unions have reached an agreement temporarily on April 15. 

The Unions that were involved with the strike are members of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT (American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers),  the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC-AAUP-AFT), and the AAUP-BHSNJ (American Association of University Professors–Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey).

With the help of Gov. Phil Murphy, allowing the negotiations to take place in his office, all 67,000 students will resume classes on Monday, April 17 for the first time in a week. The unions and administration settled a long contract dispute agreeing to better pay, benefits, and job security for both full and part-time faculty members. 

A union member who chooses to remain anonymous says that Murphy “contributed significant state resources for the agreement.”

Even though all three union’s leaderships said to return to work, they said that this is not a formal ending to the strike. According to the leaders of the unions, they believe that there is still work to do resolving “core” issues for the medical faculty. Furthermore, negotiations to increase the pay and benefits of the medical faculty (AAUP-BHSNJ) will start Monday, April 17. Then the union members must vote to officially end the strike. 

“We have not reached a Tentative Agreement for members to vote on,” union leaders stated. “There are open issues that need to be resolved, especially for AAUP-BHSNJ, and we won’t leave our colleagues at RBHS behind. They have been with us all the way. However, the framework shows the vital progress we have made on the core issues we prioritized during this contract campaign.” 

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway put out a statement saying that the academic calendar will go on as scheduled and that, “Our students’ academic success, well-being, and progress is our utmost priority… Nothing we do is as important as living up to the expectations that our students and their families have of us to be fully supportive of them and nurturing of their academic ambitions and dreams.”

In a statement, university spokesman Kevin Lorincz recalled that the new contracts will include,”

an increase salaries across-the-board for full-time faculty and counselors by at least 14% by July 1, 2025, provide a 43.8% increase in the per-credit salary rate for part-time lecturers over four years and ‘at the same time significantly strengthen their job security’ and increase the minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows and associates by 27.9% over four years. Also, provide “substantial enhancements in wages as well as a commitment to multi-year university support for our teaching assistants and graduate assistants; they would receive health care coverage and free tuition and fees, as well as seeing their 10-month salaries increase to $40,000 over the course of the contract.” 

Leading the strike,  Union President Teresa Politano and Vice President David Chapman say adjunct professors can expect a 3 % pay raise in the first three years and a 2.5% increase in their final year in a joint letter to part-time lecturers on Tuesday. To clarify, adjunct professors’ current pay is $5,178 and will increase to $5,799 by the end of their contract. Also, 1,1000 adjunct professors are eligible to receive up to $7,234 per course. 

Emily Melise, a junior civil engineering student, expresses her gratitude towards the school for coming to an agreement with the unions to allow them to return to their class and finish up their spring semester. “I am happy to return to class and meet the professors and finally get what they deserve.”

The revolutionary strike will pave the way for professors and graduate students to fight for fair wages at other struggling universities. 

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