Three unions at Rutgers University, combining forces with a Chicago-area union, went out on strike on Monday, April 10, 2023 – part of a recent wave of faculty strikes that higher education officials believe will continue.
So far, the trend includes six universities in two states.
“We have not seen anything like this, where there are so many simultaneous strikes by faculty,” said William A. Herbert, executive director, National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, who added that the Center has kept track of strike activity in higher education since 2013.
The faculty-involved walkout includes three union strikes at Rutgers, all which began on Monday, at its New Brunswick, Camden and Newark campuses, and strikes at three Illinois universities: Chicago State and Eastern Illinois Universities, where union members ended work last week, and Governors State University, where faculty walked out on Monday.
Meanwhile, unrest continues at other colleges throughout the U.S.
At the University of Michigan, a graduate student instructor and staff assistant strike, which began March 29, has yet to be resolved.
But for Rutgers, the strike has historic ramifications. It’s the first faculty strike in the University’s 257-year history, which goes back to 1766.
Three unions – representing full-time faculty, health sciences faculty part-time lecturers (the label “part-time” under dispute by the union), graduate student workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors – have initiated a walkout that the striking unions say is in solidarity with nine other Rutgers unions whose contracts expired last summer.
All affiliated with American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, the three striking unions have about 5,000 regular dues-paying members, said the president of the group representing full-time faculty, counselors, graduate workers and postdoctoral associates.
“We’ve been out of contract since July 1, we’ve been bargaining since May … a lack of progress is an understatement,” said the spokesperson for the group, Rebecca Givan.
Officials at Rutgers did not say how the strike, which has involved all its campuses, has impacted the University with over 67,000 students, or whether the strike has slowed teaching and research.
What to Know During a Strike at Rutgers:
On Monday, Governor Phil Murphy called union representatives and Rutgers University officials to join him in the statehouse in Trenton to reach a resolution with the assistance of his administration.
“I am hopeful that we can come to a resolution that meets both sides’ needs fairly and come to that resolution ASAP,” Murphy said who pointed to the importance of a swift resolution given the clock continuing to tick toward the end of the current school year.
However, many doubt that after 10 months of attempts at negotiations, that even the governor can bring the two clearly divided sides to an agreement.
“If we don’t get a resolution, there are many losers, including many thousands of students who go to Rutgers,” Murphy said.
Meanwhile, just weeks before finals and graduation, seniors are facing a chaotic and unsure future with classes being moved to new locations or canceled, sometimes without notice.
And while the University said in a press release that the campus will remain open and classes will continue, it remains to be seen what will happen to those students whose teachers are on strike.
Some students told CBS reporters their classes have been canceled because their professors are picketing – others said they weren’t affected at all. Students across the board, however, said they hope it gets resolved as soon as possible.