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Faculty strike day 5: Picketers bring demonstrations to state capital


As the University's teaching strike entered its fifth day, picketing demonstrations occurred on the Newark, New Brunswick and Camden campuses and also in the city of Trenton.

Across all picketing locations, 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) engaged in various artistic presentations.

Picketers in Newark participated in picnics, musical and vocal presentations and an art build, while those in Camden had the opportunity to partake in yoga and an art build, according to a schedule published by the @RUStrikeUpdates account on Twitter.

In New Brunswick, picketers were called to the College Avenue campus and marched to Winants Hall, where they met with medical faculty who spoke about their experiences. Near Scott Hall, musician Frankie Cosmos performed a concert for demonstrators.

In Trenton, approximately 100 picketers organized by the Rutgers One Coalition, the New Labor Union, Cosecha New Jersey, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the PTLFC and the AAUP–BHSNJ gathered at the state capitol plaza. After forming four picket lines, the picketers chanted and sang in both English and Spanish.

Soili Smith, a Ph.D. student in Rutgers—Newark's Department of American Studies, a member of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT and a picketer in Trenton, said that she encourages students to join the unions' labor contract campaign, as it includes proposals that benefit undergraduates.

"The administration has said a lot about not wanting to disrupt the course of student studies, but a big thing that disrupts their studies is when Rutgers levies the debts and fees on them and then prevents them from graduating (and) holds them from registering for classes," Smith said. "If that's something that means something to (students), if they do want to graduate, if they do want Rutgers to stop impeding their academic progress, (then they) should come out here and be part of it."

She also expressed her displeasure for the University's introduction of a hotline for students to report strike-related activities. The University did not respond to The Daily Targum's request for a comment on the strike reporting system.

In regards to Gov. Phil Murphy's (D-N.J.) involvement in the bargaining process, Smith said Murphy's push to move contract negotiations to Trenton is not helpful and arrives late, especially considering how long these labor issues have existed.

In contrast, though, the University and the unions have issued statements in which they attributed progress in their contract negotiations to Murphy's involvement.

A University spokesperson said the parties will continue negotiating today, and the administration remains confident a resolution will be reached.

"We are making significant progress with the continued help, engagement and leadership of (Murphy) and his senior staff," the spokesperson said. "We are optimistic we will reach (an) agreement on fair contracts for all of our employees."

A joint press release issued by the three striking unions stated they would continue negotiating throughout the weekend, having already reached a tentative agreement about a proposal benefiting non-tenured, full-time University employees.

The agreement would allow such faculty to qualify for "presumptive renewal," eliminating the need for them to reapply for contracts with the University after their ongoing contracts expire.

"This is game-changing for faculty members who haven't had the protection of tenure," Rebecca Kolins Givan, president of the AAUP-AFT, said in the release. "We've taken an important step toward confronting the precarity faced by over 70 percent of the educators, researchers and clinicians at Rutgers. Now the administration needs to finish the job by assuring adjunct faculty that they, too, will have real job security and won't have to reapply every semester."

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