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Faculty strike day 3: Contract negotiations continue at state capital


Rutgers faculty union members and allies continued to picket on all campuses as the University's first teaching strike moved into its third day.

In addition to the picket lines, live events were held on the College Avenue campus, which included a drag show and music performances.

Away from on-campus demonstrations, contract negotiations continued in Trenton, where the University administration, Rutgers faculty unions and mediators continued to work toward a resolution and an end to the strike.

Last night, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) attended his "Ask Governor Murphy" radio show on local NPR-affiliated stations and commented on the strike and the bargaining process.

He said that participants in the strike represent a diverse population of individuals, including professors who are well-paid and still support pay equity for all employees.

"We're the quintessential American organized labor state, so I want to get a solution that exudes, that reeks fairness to all the categories we're talking about, including the ones that have had a far less good shake as it were," he said.

Regarding contract negotiations, Murphy said that the University administration and the unions' negotiators have been amicable toward each other thus far. Still, he said he was upset that tensions between the groups had escalated to the point of a strike.

The Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC) and the American Association of University Professors at the Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP–BHSNJ) also spoke about negotiations in their daily joint statement.

The statement described developments in the bargaining process, the locations of today's picket lines and resources for those interested in becoming involved with the strike.

Additionally, the statement noted that Murphy's involvement in the negotiations led to Rutgers' administration lowering their opposition to some of the unions' demands.

"We won't stop fighting for (our non-remunerative demands) because our struggle has always been about more than wages — it is about our values of solidarity, community and lifting up the most vulnerable," the statement said.

Some of the unions' outstanding demands include more support for social justice and equity initiatives, debt relief for alums and current students, employment security and a rent freeze, according to the statement.

At 8 p.m., members of the unions' bargaining committee in Trenton provided negotiations updates to the public via a Zoom meeting. Those directly involved in the negotiations spoke about progress made with regard to the unions' economic demands.

Amy Higer, the president of the PTLFC and part-time lecturer at Rutgers—Newark, explained the distinction between the negotiations' economic and non-economic issues.

She said the former refers to salary, raises and wage calculation processes, while the latter refers to issues like graduate worker recognition, parental leave and equity between campuses.

Several union members at the meeting expressed concern and frustration with the distinction between the two categories, saying that this distinction was created by Murphy in order to promote the idea that some of the unions' demands are less important than others.

The members said that issues like campus housing rent freezes and job security for part-time lecturers should also be considered economic issues and should be negotiated together to ensure that potential contracts address these concerns.

Additionally, Sherry Wolf, the senior organizer for the AAUP-AFT, said that "wake-up calls" have been planned for members of the University's Board of Governors. These calls consist of demonstrators gathering outside Board members' residences and attempting to directly draw attention to the unions' demands.

Tomorrow, Mark Angelson, vice chair of the Board of Governors, will receive a call at 7 a.m. in front of his residence in Manhattan.

Dory Devlin, a University spokesperson, said contract negotiations are ongoing, and the University remains optimistic about the progress being made. 

"Negotiations today started again at 10 a.m., and we are encouraged by the progress we are making with the help and leadership of the Governor's office and his most senior staff," Devlin said. "We will keep working until we have fair contracts for all of our employees."

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