The Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) announced today that they have officially reached an agreement with the University regarding their yearlong fiscal emergency negotiations, with five of the largest unions in the coalition all recently voting by large majorities to ratify the agreement, according to a press release.
The five unions include the Rutgers American Association of University Professors — American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), the Union of Rutgers Administrators — American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT), the Communications Workers of America Local 1031 as well as Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) Locals 5089 and 5094.
Key features of the newly ratified agreement will include a no-layoff guarantee for staff unions through Jan. 1, 2022, an improved funding extension program for graduate students, the reversal of a previous restriction on the reappointment of adjunct faculty, which affected approximately one-fifth of part-time lecturers, and a timetable for payment of raises canceled due to the declaration of a fiscal emergency, according to the release.
In return for these features, the unions have agreed to take part in the Shared Work Program, where most members will furlough weekly for one day or half a day through June, according to the release. The full income of most faculty will be protected through unemployment benefits.
Out of the AAUP-AFT members who voted, approximately 91 percent voted in favor of ratifying the agreement, with the total vote being 1,707 to 178, according to its website. This marks the highest percentage turnout and overall turnout the union has ever seen.
As a whole, the CRU has been pushing for the University to take a more “people-centered” approach to issues brought on by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, such as layoffs of part-time lecturers and various funding cuts, throughout the past year, The Daily Targum previously reported.
The CRU previously proposed a work-share program to the University at the beginning of the pandemic and continued to extend their offer throughout the year, but the former University President Robert L. Barchi Administration rejected this proposal, the Targum reported.
The unions said their program could have saved the University approximately $100 million while also protecting thousands of jobs and the incomes of its members, according to the release.
“That was a shocking indictment of management’s profit-centered priorities, but our Coalition decided to try again at the start of the year,” said Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, according to the release. “We finally have an agreement that makes strong progress on our demands. Rutgers will have what is likely the largest work-sharing program anywhere in higher education — one that our Coalition developed that the administration is adopting to cover the majority of workers at Rutgers.”
Christine O’Connell, president of the URA-AFT, said the ratification of this agreement shows both the University and others what union members can achieve when working together toward a cause, according to the release. She said the agreement will benefit all union members, not just those who voted.
“This past year has opened our eyes to how truly fundamental it is to have a well-organized local, ready to act when it counts,” said Justin O’Hea and Ryan Novosielski, co-presidents of HPAE Local 5094, according to the release. “This was a teaching moment and a learning experience. We look ahead to the future and hope to see more promising developments to come.”