A history-making strike at Rutgers University has begun, with three unions representing 9,000 professors, researchers, and clinicians walking out at 9 a.m. this morning after months of stalled contract negotiations.
Rutgers faculty had been working without a contract since July 2022, and in February of this year, an overwhelming majority of two of the unions’ members voted to authorize a strike; the third union authorized a strike in March. Those votes came to fruition today in a strike that is set to be the first faculty strike in Rutgers’ history, as well as one of the largest-ever in the United States.
At issue are a number of disputes between the union and university leadership over adjunct faculty pay, wages for graduate student workers, and affordable housing for both students and faculty.
“We intend for this new contract to be transformative, especially for our lowest-paid and most vulnerable members,” Rebecca Givan, who leads the faculty union Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said in a statement last night. “But our proposals to raise graduate workers and adjunct faculty up to a living wage and establish meaningful job security for adjuncts are exactly the ones that the administration has resisted most.”
The strike will no doubt interrupt proceedings for the university’s 67,000 students, who are spread across campuses in New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark. But the university’s official stance is that students should continue going to class even with the strike ongoing.
“The university is open and operating, and classes are proceeding on a normal schedule,” reads the university’s strike information page, as reported by NJ Advance Media.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway has vociferously opposed the strike and warned during negotiations that a strike may even be illegal, though union officials countered that New Jersey law does not include any prohibition on public employee strikes.
If prolonged, the strike may start to cause discomfort for the state’s Democratic leaders, who would be caught between their party’s general support for unions and their desire to see peace reign at the state’s premier public university. Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter that he hopes to play a role in mediating the dispute between the university and its faculty.
“I am calling on the University and union bargaining committees to meet in my office tomorrow to have a productive dialogue,” Murphy said yesterday; such a meeting would take place today. “The world-class educators, students, and staff of Rutgers University have my word that these parties will negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that is fair to all parties.”