Rutgers University faces its first cancellations due to a faculty strike
‘Better salary. Better working conditions. Great job security,’ said one professor on key reasons for protesting
For the first time in Rutgers University's 257-year history, members of the staff and student body have taken to the streets to strike.
What are they fighting for? “Better salary. Better working conditions. Great job security,” Professor Leo Sacks told CBS News.
Those on strike against the New Jersey school include three unions with a total of 9,000 part-time and full-time faculty at the university who voted last Sunday to protest. The union members said on Sunday that along with their other demands, the university does not respect the rights of graduate workers or adjunct professors.
Rebecca Givan, the president of one of the unions, told The New York Times that they are hoping the university takes their union proposals seriously. She said, “Union proposals that included a significant raise and the promise of job security for adjunct professors were ‘exactly the ones that the administration has resisted most.’”
As protestors formed crowds around Rutgers University’s three main campuses, heads of both the unions and university met at the state Capitol by invitation of Gov. Phil Murphy to negotiate.
“We feel hopeful about bargaining productively, and we appreciate the governor’s support,” Givan said. “We are committed to getting it done, and if necessary we are definitely prepared to stay here until we get it done.”
The university made an announcement on Sunday that the strike would not interfere with the education of its 67,000 students. The administration acknowledged that maintaining the well-being of their students was of utmost importance:
“Notwithstanding the action by the union leadership, the university is committed to ensuring that our more than 67,000 students are unaffected by the strike and may continue their academic progress. We are working hard to reach fair and reasonable agreements with our unions, but no matter the outcome of the labor negotiations, the well-being of all Rutgers students will remain our top priority,” the announcement read.
Many students have spoken out in support of the faculty unions and have joined in protests. One argument they contribute to is that the university prioritizes funding sports more than education and other members of the student body.
Dominique Rocker, a 32-year-old American Studies Ph.D. student at the university told the New York Post that Rutgers is refusing to give fair pay. “So right now, my pay is $31,000 for the year, and a livable wage at minimum is $47,000 in the state of New Jersey. So as you can tell, that’s a big discrepancy,” Rocker said. “So that’s the reason why I’m out here because I love students. I love teaching, but I can’t do the work effectively if I have to have three, four other jobs to pay my bills.”
Unions at Rutgers have been organizing and negotiating since last summer.