Three unions representing 9,000 Rutgers University educators, researchers, clinicians, and librarians voted by overwhelming margins to ratify new contracts, nearly a month after a historic five-day strike in mid-April.
Some 93 percent of members of the three unions—Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents adjunct faculty; and AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents health science faculty in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences facilities—who cast ballots voted yes on ratifying a total of five Tentative Agreements with the university.
“This vote is the culmination of months of intense efforts by so many people who walked the picket lines and organized with their colleagues,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “Because of this commitment by our members, we made major gains in these contracts, especially for the most vulnerable and lowest-paid of the people we represent. We didn’t win everything we wanted. But what we did achieve is a testament to all of us, and we’re proud of it.
Howie Swerdloff, an executive board member of the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, said, “This overwhelmingly positive vote across all job categories shows how unified we were and are, and how much everyone gained as a result. We bargained together, walked the picket line together, and won together.”
Members of the three unions also voted in favor of a proposal to ask those they represent for voluntary contributions to the Rutgers Beloved Community Fund. The fund—one of several social justice initiatives proposed by the unions to center and benefit Rutgers students and the communities surrounding the university’s campuses—won a commitment from Governor Phil Murphy for $600,000 in recurring annual funding.
But during subsequent negotiations, the university administration, led by President Jonathan Holloway, backed out of an earlier commitment to contribute to the Fund. The unions intend to follow through on their initiative with voluntary contributions to add to the state funds—which will be administered by a newly established 501(c)(3) organization—and to continue to pressure the Rutgers administration to match their commitment.
The educators unions are also vowing to support more than 6,000 workers in nine other unions representing staff at Rutgers who are still without contracts.
Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, which represents 2,500 administrative staff, said, “We are proud to stand with our AAUP colleagues as they settle a contract that provides real benefits for thousands of their members. URA-AFT continues to fight for a fair contract that provides raises with longevity pay that recognizes their contribution, recognition for our essential workers, job security and a path to career advancement, and a permanent policy for telework that is not at the whim of management.”
The three educators unions bargained together, but they negotiated five separate contracts. The final percentage of “yes” votes for the five agreements was:
- 92 percent for the contract covering some 6,250 full-time faculty and graduate workers represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT and AAUP-BHSNJ (this agreement includes faculty in AAUP-BHSNJ for the first time).
- 97 percent for the contract covering some 2,800 adjunct faculty represented by the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union.
- 95 percent for the contract covering some 750 postdoctoral associates and fellows represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
- 100 percent for the contract covering 22 Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Counselors represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
- 97 percent for a separate contract covering full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, graduate workers, and others who teach Winter and Summer session courses at Rutgers.
“This is a new moment for higher ed labor around the country,” said Todd Wolfson, general vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “Other unions representing graduate workers and faculty organized, struck, and won strong contracts, inspiring us to fight for more. And now we’ve contributed to the largest strike wave in the history of public higher education. We have a vision of a public university that works for our students, our communities, and everyone who works there—and we’ve taken important steps toward achieving it.”