NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Thousands of professors, part-time lecturers and graduate student workers at New Jersey’s flagship university went on strike Monday — the first such job action in the school’s 257-year history.
Classes were still being held at Rutgers as picket lines were set up at the school’s campuses in New Brunswick/Piscataway, Newark and Camden. Union officials had decided Sunday night to go on strike, citing a stalemate in contract talks that have been ongoing since July. Faculty members had voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike last month.
Three unions, which represent about 9,000 Rutgers staff members, were involved in the strike: The Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates and some counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents part-time lecturers; and the AAUP-BHSNJ, which includes faculty in the biomedical and health sciences at Rutgers’ medical, dental, nursing, and public health schools.
Union leaders said faculty members at the medical and other health sciences schools will continue performing essential research and patient care, but will curtail duties that don’t impact patient health and safety.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said Sunday that he believed the two sides are close to an agreement, adding that the university will continue to negotiate. Union officials, though, said an agreement didn’t appear near. Democratic Gov. Gov. Phil Murphy has called for both sides to meet Monday in his office at the Statehouse. But it’s not clear if either side has accepted the offer.
“To say that this is deeply disappointing would be an understatement,” Holloway said.
Union leaders say they’re demanding salary increases, better job security for adjunct faculty and guaranteed funding for grad students, among other requests.
Holloway has said the university has offered to increase salaries for full-time faculty members, teaching assistants and graduate assistants by 12% by 2025. The university offered an additional 3% lump-sum payment to all the faculty unions that would be paid over the first two years of the new contract.