Category Archives: Labor

Did you take the COVID-19 survey?

Updated: 3/31/2020

Between Friday, March 27 and Monday, March 30, 2020, we sent out our COVID-19 issue survey to you.  Did you receive it? We typically send emails to the official Rutgers email account on file with the University.  The email was sent by Lucye Millerand, URA-AFT Exec. Vice President.  Please double-check your inbox and junk folders.

If you received the survey, please complete it immediately.  Your responses are helping us prioritize immediate safety issues and categorize any remaining issues that we can raise with Rutgers.  We are attempting to negotiate with Rutgers over both ongoing and secondary issues.  Secondary issues might be how the pandemic impacts regular policies such as vacation carryover rules later this year.

If you did not receive the survey  link, please email us at with your preferred email address so that we can resend it to you.

Update on COVID-19 Issues

Revised 3/29/2020

Rutgers’ expansion of telework and special paid leave allows for a mixture of safety, job continuity and sustained income—our most important goals. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, we already announced to you that Rutgers’ methods in administering them are unduly burdensome and were not negotiated with Rutgers unions.

We will take action to fight back on the unfair rules, but we also need to prioritize based on time and safety. This helps our union representatives act quickly for the most critical concerns. Please keep these things in mind:

PRIORITY #1 – your safety, job continuity and pay

Every non-essential worker should be home now, whether for telework, paid leave or a combination of both. While we understand Rutgers’ announced rules for requesting and documenting are unfair, report back to us IMMEDIATELY if you are:

  1. Non-essential staff mandated to return to the workplace,
  2. Essential staff mandated to return to work for non-essential reasons (i.e. different from the Governor’s list) or to an unsafe or unprotected workplace,
  3. refused telework,
  4. refused pay,
  5. refused paid leave,
  6. required to work outside your normal hours to “make up” lost time (e.g. told to work all night in exchange for your paid leave during the day),
  7. mandated to use your own paid time off,
  8. threatened with disciplinary action, pay docking or similar form of retaliation.

Only report these to us now if you get an actual negative decision or directive. Otherwise, keep requesting, emailing and pushing through the administrative stuff until you get a definitive YES or NO from management. Stay home under all circumstances and while you are corresponding with management.

PRIORITY #2 – Everything else

Document everything and forward your concerns to us when you can. We will be fighting Rutgers on the legal front, collective action and through negotiations for a while. Put all requests to Rutgers and your supervisors in writing. Save all copies. Keep a careful log of everything said and done from now on and be ready to share it with us.

In the meantime, here are some best practices for dealing with the RU screw:

1. Be proactive and arrange a reduced schedule with your manager – Try to always be “available to work” from home, if possible, during your regular hours. Make it known to your supervisor. However, if you truly cannot work a full day because of illness or childcare, consider working only a partial work day and charge the rest to paid COVID-19 related leave. As long as you are paid for a full day’s work, it can be broken up between COVID-19 leave and telework. Managers need to be flexible to your family and safety needs. And you need to be flexible to adapt to a new work environment. It is a team effort—communication is key.

2. TimesheetsLack of work? — Make sure you always write “available to work” on your daily work plan. It means you are available to take calls, respond to emails, receive supervisor directives—it is work. Do not volunteer to go back to the office to get work. Instead, your manager must realize that some typical work time and tasks will be lost due to self-isolation needs—we are all adapting. Get creative and proactive with your work tasks. Take online training, build your skills or other self-paced work when you cannot perform regular work tasks. Call a colleague or client to talk about a project. These can be reported on your time sheet.  We recommend that you report blocks of time larger than 15 minutes increments on the sheets.

3. Agree to disagree when it comes to using your own paid time off (PTO)- Do not actually agree to charge any COVID-19 related absence to your own PTO (i.e. your V, S, PH or AL time) other than NJESL. Just agree to disagree. If your supervisor demands that you do or threatens you, contact us immediately. We are fighting Rutgers’ illegal rules for documentation and denials. We can help you later to recover your PTO if you keep careful documentation, especially if it is charged without your agreement.

4. Essential staff who still report to the workplace – do not agree to work under unsafe or unprotected conditions. All personal protective equipment and recommended safety guidelines must be followed. Otherwise, object to the work for safety reasons. Do not refuse to work, but simply state that you cannot work until it is safe. You should also consider isolating at home based on the Governor’s guidelines if/until it is safe to report back to the workplace. Do not agree to return to campus for non-essential tasks. Only essential jobs actually performing essential tasks under safe conditions should be required. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply according to the Governor’s Executive Order 107.

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Celebrating the Labor Activism of Paul Robeson

On this 100th Anniversary of Paul Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers College in 1919, the Union of Rutgers Administrators (URA-AFT) expresses our gratitude to Paul Robeson for his labor activism and leadership in the international struggle for worker rights. We honor his legacy by continued activism and mutual support among all unions and student groups in the Rutgers community devoted to social justice.

Paul Robeson

A brief history:
Paul Robeson (1898 to 1976) began his labor-related activism at the age of 37 starring in union-based plays and films. He would go on to sing at union rallies and march on picket lines during the height of McCarthyism: United Auto Workers in Detroit (1941), Labor Victory Rally at Yankee Stadium (1942), Madison Square Garden Rally for Fair Employment Practices (1945), Waterfront Strikers in San Francisco (1946), Food and Tobacco Workers in North Carolina (1947), and United Public Workers in Washington, D.C. (1949). In 1950, he helped found the National Negro Labor Council, supporting black workers striking throughout the country.

Paul Robeson

An actor and singer of international renown, Paul Robeson faced severe retaliation for his labor organizing. In 1949, he gave a now-famous speech in Paris, where he spoke out against a possible war with the Soviet Union. The press labeled him a traitor and, in 1950, the U.S. Government revoked his passport.

From 1949, the FBI put pressure on concert halls to not allow him to sing,” his granddaughter told BBC News in 2014. “No recording company would issue a contract and he disappeared from the radio.” His name was stricken from the college All-American football teams and news footage of him was destroyed. His income dwindled from over $100,000 in 1947 to $6,000 in 1952.

The efforts to silence him failed. Threatened by the State Department with possible imprisonment in 1952, he sang by telephone to union workers in Vancouver; he then sang to an crowd of 40,000 at the U.S.-Canadian border. In 1956, he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee and told them: “You are the Un-Americans.” He continued his activism and humanitarian efforts throughout his life, a testament to all people devoted to social justice, worker rights, world peace, and international solidarity.

There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. [The] artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities […] The battlefront is everywhere.”
— Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1988)

By Kathryn Neal

Philip S. Foner, ed., Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, and Interviews, a Centennial Celebration (1978)

Dr. Mark D. Naison, Fordham University; “Americans Through Their Labor”;

Paul Robeson: Internationally Acclaimed Performer, Champion of the People, American Postal Worker Magazine;