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Working Without Contracts, Rutgers Faculty and Staff Rally Outside State of the University Address

Over 70 Union Members Gather to Critique President Barchi Administration's Dealings With Faculty and Staff Unions
AFT-AAUP Protest
Faculty, staff and students rally outside the Rutgers Student Center last Friday prior to Pres. Barchi's speech. David Bedford

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The main phrase chanted by protestors outside the College Ave Student Center this Friday was “What do we want? Contracts! When do we want them? Now!”

The faculty contracts expired August 31, and they have not yet settled on a new agreement with an administration that has often been at odds with unions.

Since April, the administration has held seven 2-hour long bargaining sessions, one each in April, May, and June, and two each in July and August.

“You can’t bargain in good faith and settle a contract in that period of time,” said Pat Nowlan, Executive Director of Rutgers AFT-AAUP. “And we know that because we are not settled.”

For the past few years, the Rutgers administration has ignored demands made by various sects of the University’s faculty and staff for better, safer contracts.

Barchi claimed that the AFT-AAUP and other unions have denied the administration opportunities for bargaining, but the union says otherwise.

“President Barchi said today that our faculty union here at Rutgers rejected 5 bargaining sessions,” said Nowlan. “We actually had to file a charge that they weren’t bargaining in good faith.”

Nowlan said that as the University undergoes many changes, like the absorption of UMDNJ's medical schools, many of the faculty and staff members at Rutgers feel neglected for their hard work.

“Given this administration, and the merging of Rutgers with UMDNJ, we feel its important that no group gets exploited at the expense of the others,” said Nowlan. 

After the rally, which had roughly 70 participants, faculty, students, and staff came inside the student center for President Robert Barchi’s annual "State of the University" address.

During the open question period, students and faculty took to the microphones to question the practices of the school's treatment of its faculty and staff.

Humzah Raza, a Rutgers-Newark first-year student and campus senator, questioned Barchi why it is that “the starting salary for a non-tenured faculty member is $45,000 [and] the starting salary for a Newark public school teacher is $52,000.”

Faculty Senator Lisa Miller mentioned that, compared to other Big Ten schools, Rutgers' faculty and staff are some of the lowest paid.

Addressing Barchi, Miller said, “You talked about recruiting excellent faculty and maintaining the excellent faculty that we have. I don’t know how you do that when we’re at the bottom.”

“As a student, I want the best faculty out there, and I don’t think we can have the best faculty when Newark public school teachers have a higher starting salary than our non-tenure professors,” said Raza. “It’s ridiculous”

According to Adrienne Eaton, Department Chair of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, “The university team has been very slow to schedule [bargaining] meetings. They let the contract expire without having met very often with us.”

Such experiences have become commonplace for many of the unions at Rutgers, which is part of the reason they have made such a strong effort to band together, according to protesters.