After reported progress in contract negotiations, Rutgers union members are seeking answers from the University after agreed-upon retroactive raises were not issued to hundreds of union employees.
The Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (PTLFC) recently announced to its members that the Rutgers administration failed to pay adjunct professors the full retroactive pay outlined in their new contracts. Some employees were told they would not receive any back pay.
In response to this issue, the union created a petition asking University President Jonathan Holloway to enact immediate retroactive payments to adjunct faculty.
Heather Pierce, an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science and a member of the PTLFC Executive Board, said approximately 500 adjunct professors, who solely worked in the Fall 2022 semester, received no retroactive payments.
Additionally, she said that many adjuncts who worked in the Spring 2023 semester only received partial amounts of the agreed-upon pay raises.
Pierce also said that those who worked during Fall 2022 but did not plan on working during the Fall 2023 semester were told they would never be paid.
"This was the first test of the new contract, and it was not surprising that due to some mixture of incompetence and perhaps a lack of will, we've encountered problems from the start,” Pierce said. “This is not the end. We have a big fight ahead of us in making sure that the intent of these contractual gains is realized, and we're ready for it."
After the PTLFC learned that many of its members did not receive their retroactive pay raises, it was prepared to pursue legal action. But the union's newly established contract enforcement team pressured the University administration to pay adjuncts what they were owed, Pierce said.
In a statement to The Daily Targum, the University said that 1,648 lectures were not paid in full, and Rutgers' human resources and payroll departments are working to solve the payment problems.
Pierce said the enforcement team has recently resolved the issue, but this string of mistakes from the University seems too frequent. She said it is difficult to judge whether the University's actions are honest mistakes or purposeful errors.
“This type of incompetence seems very regular at Rutgers, and so it's sometimes hard to really know if it's truly just incompetence or a mixture of, we'll say, mistakes on purpose," Pierce said. "And the mistakes always seem to happen in their favor."
She said that due to the Spring 2023 faculty strike and solidarity between Rutgers unions, the PTLFC was able to step closer to its goal of equity across the faculty unions.
Pierce said she predicts more problems for lecturers and students in the coming academic year, including potential layoffs for employees with recent wage increases. This may result in cuts in the number of sections for some classes and caps on course enrollment for students.
Pierce attributed these possible problems to the growing "adjunctification" and financialization of academia. She said that today, more university faculty members are in contingent positions compared to the 70s when a higher percentage of members were tenured or tenure-track.
Pierce said that while Rutgers has the money necessary to fulfill faculty's contractual demands, there are still questions regarding where this funding will come from.
She said the University does not have to raise students' tuition in order to complete employee contracts. Instead, it should prepare a budget to accommodate these demands for the upcoming fall and spring semesters.
"We have been organizing for the last few years, and we're ready to fight hard to make major structural change to the academic system that has sidelined our educational and research priorities at the expense of capital projects, administrative bloat, etc.," she said.