Three unions representing around 15,000 workers went on strike at prestigious Rutgers University in New Jersey on Monday morning. These unions, along with nine others representing campus workers, have been without a contract since July 1, 2022.
Nearly 95 percent of Rutgers AAUP-AFT (American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers), Rutgers AAUP-BHSNJ (Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey), and the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union members previously voted for strike authorization early in March. These unions account for the university’s teaching & research staff, as well as its clinicians. All three are affiliates of the Maritime Trades Department under their mutual affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers.
This is the first time faculty has gone on strike at Rutgers since its founding in 1766, and the first strike to involve tenured and tenure-track faculty at any Big Ten university. As is typical of faculty strikes, activities such as instruction, grading, holding office hours or attending university events will be halted until the strike’s end.
While each of the three unions have their particular contract concerns, they largely fight for shared goals. Of particular concern: equal pay for equal work at a time when Rutgers, as with many other universities, has come to rely increasingly on non-tenure-track (NTT) and contingent faculty to carry out instruction and research at lower rates than tenure-track faculty. Additionally, NTT faculty often do not receive the same (if any) health and retirement benefits that tenured faculty does.
Keeping in step with the increasing corporatization of higher education, the university administration is acting just like fat cat industrialists of old. They’ve stonewalled on some demands for nearly a year, while outright rejecting others without explanation. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy intends to facilitate talks between the bargaining units and the university administration Monday afternoon, but the unions are preparing for the long haul. They will be livestreaming 8 p.m. nightly updates from the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Youtube page.
For those who wish to support the strike, the three unions encourage donations to their shared strike fund, which can be found here. In the meantime, the Maritime Trades Department stands in solidarity with the striking faculty and hopes that the strike will conclude with stronger, more equitable contracts for all workers involved.
Featured Photo by Alan Maass