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Holloway addresses labor negotiations amid faculty strike possibility

University President Jonathan Holloway sent a University-wide email yesterday with an update on the possibility of Rutgers employees going on strike.  – Photo by Nick Romanenko / Rutgers University

Yesterday, University President Jonathan Holloway sent a University-wide email providing an update on ongoing labor negotiations with Rutgers faculty unions.

He said the University administration met with the labor groups on Monday, offering a new contract with salaries "that exceeds the offer that the unions agreed to four years ago" during the previous contract negotiation period.

Additionally, Holloway said there could be legal and financial consequences if a faculty strike were to occur.

"It is well-established that strikes by public employees are unlawful in New Jersey," he said. "We hope that the courts would not have to be called upon to halt to an unlawful strike. No one wants that, nor does anyone want faculty or others to go without pay during an illegal strike."

The University declined to clarify to The Daily Targum if Rutgers administration has already decided to take legal action in the event of a strike or if they are only considering the option at this time.

The American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) sent a statement to its members yesterday afternoon saying they were upset by the email, calling the message deceptive.

"We are disappointed that President Holloway chose to misinform the Rutgers community this afternoon — our students included — instead of joining us at the bargaining table to learn the facts about what we are proposing, as we have repeatedly invited him to do," the union's statement said.

Todd Wolfson, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and vice president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said no law in New Jersey makes it illegal for public workers to go on strike, and the union would push back against any legal action brought against it.

"If President Holloway and his administration go to court for an injunction to end a job action, we will certainly challenge this," he said. "If the administration chooses this course, they will be going against the will of thousands of Rutgers educators and employees who voted to authorize a strike if needed to win a fair contract."

He said that while a court could issue a ruling called an injunction requiring employees to return to work, it has only happened in a few cases in New Jersey's history.

Additionally, he said the AAUP-AFT hopes Rutgers does not withhold faculty pay during a potential strike, but if they do, the union has established a Strike Fund to support those impacted by the lack of income.

With regard to the contract that the University administration put forward to Rutgers unions on Monday, Wolfson said the offer remains insignificant due to rising inflation rates and the cost of living.

"(The) proposal changes their previous offer by a grand total of .75 percent over four years, along with an additional 1 percent lump sum payment that would not go to our base salary," he said.

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