10,000 At University Still Without Contracts on International Workers Day
Hundreds of workers from across Rutgers University’s campuses protested outside a planned bargaining session today, calling for a fair contract which would increase take-home pay in part while controlling health insurance costs and ensure fair treatment for workers who are sick or caring for a sick loved one, according to Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) president Christine O’Connell. “We are calling for a fair contract and equity for workers at Rutgers,” she said. “When our members see the salaries, perks and bonuses that top Rutgers officials pay themselves, they wonder why it takes so long for us to get the contracts we deserve.”
The local represents more than 2,500 administrative staff workers on all three Rutgers main campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden and in every county throughout the state. The rally, held on International Workers’ Day, served to call attention to their plight. Approximately 10,000 Rutgers workers whose contracts expired last July, including adjunct faculty, doctors, nurses and thousands of healthcare workers, are seeking fair contracts, she said. Full-time faculty at the school, along with graduate student workers, settled a tentative agreement for a new contract that they are voting to ratify.
Rutgers management has refused to discuss innovative proposals on health insurance, which would save both the university and workers on costs, according to URA-AFT director Greg Rusciano. “Worst of all, they demanded concessions on medical leave without negotiating and unfairly changed established practice of calculating protected time off for sick workers or those caring for an ill family member,” said Rusciano.
Laurel Brennan of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, said the union federation is “disappointed” in Rutgers leadership. “A school that once prided itself on being progressive and diverse, is now ignoring the basic rights of working people,” she said. “The members of URA Local 1766 work in virtually every department in the university. The efforts of these workers are crucial to the school’s success, and they deserve a livable wage, pay equity, job security, and affordable health benefits.”
Rutgers management is flouting New Jersey’s Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act of 2018, according to URA-AFT Executive Vice President Lucye Millerand. “The Act’s provisions extend union recognition to hundreds of temporary and part-time workers, who lack fair pay, adequate benefits and any job protection,” said Millerand. “Rutgers management will not sit down with us to implement the law. These workers deserve a union.”
Rutgers faculty union, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, reached a tentative agreement for a new contract in April after being mired in long negotiations. Members took an overwhelming strike vote and started preparing for the possibility of a job action, prior to reaching what the faculty local terms as a “historic” agreement with equity pay provisions. The URA-AFT local has proposed equity pay in the form of longevity increases for workers who have been on the job for decades, but whose pay has been relatively flat. “These workers have been passed over in many cases by higher- paid new hires– and then asked to train the new person who earns more,” said Millerand.