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Rutgers faculty union authorizes strike

The faculty union is fighting for equal pay for equal work, specifically for female employees at the University. They are also fighting to raise salaries of teaching assistants, who earn approximately $26,000 a year. – Photo by Photo by Garrett Steffe | The Daily Targum

In the latest development of contract negotiations, which have been going on for more than a year, a strike has been authorized by the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), according to an article by NJ Advance Media.

“We are fighting to increase the full-time faculty to student ratio to defend quality public education,” said Deepa Kumar, the president of AAUP-AFT and an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. “We are fighting for equal pay for equal work for female faculty. And we are fighting to raise the salaries of our lowest paid members, teaching assistants who have not seen a raise since 2013 and who earn $26,000 a year.”

Approximately 88 percent of union members voted for the authorization, a common negotiation tactic which does not necessarily mean a strike will occur, according to the article. Union-voting membership includes more than 4,800 full-time professors and graduate workers. 

Professors have accused Rutgers of delaying contract talks to dates too close to the old deal’s expiration and limiting negotiation sessions to a few hours a month, according to the article. They have also called a 1.5-percent raise “insulting.” 

Part-time lecturers, who are covered under a separate contract, are not included in the strike authorization, according to the article. 

Dory Devlin, senior director of University News and Media Relations, said to The Daily Targum earlier this month that agreements have been reached with five of Rutgers’ labor unions, which have generally given 3-percent raises to members. These agreements cover approximately 25 percent of the University’s unionized workforce. 

The two parties continue to make progress and negotiate in good faith, Devlin said according to the article. 

“Our faculty believe Rutgers is for education, not profit,” Kumar said to the Targum earlier this month. “A strike would aim to compel management to stop treating our students like an ATM by charging them exorbitant fees that are 10 to 15 times the Big Ten average. A strike would aim to force management to stop trying to impose a robo-scheduling system on all of us that would lead to students and faculty having class schedules that ignore child care, health, research, work and other concerns.”

AAUP-AFT hopes a strike will also resolve several other issues, such as the current lack of gender and race equity in hiring, salaries and retention, as well as a raise to teaching and graduate assistants, Kumar said to the Tagum earlier this month. 

Rutgers officials have met with AAUP-AFT 33 times since last year and are scheduled to meet two more times in the month of March, according to the article.

Additionally, one of the areas causing contract tensions is the $193 million subsidized to athletics since 2012, which the Targum reported last month. University President Robert L. Barchi, in an interview with the Targum, said it is unacceptable that academics have been budgetarily supplementing athletics.

“Hopefully, it won’t be too many years before there is a surplus from athletics that goes back into academics, as it does in many, not all, academic peers,” Barchi said. 

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