Rutgers faculty yesterday began a strike, halting teaching, research, and service activities as part of the effort to obtain pay raises, more job stability for adjunct professors, living wages for graduate student workers, increased support for caregivers, greater security in academic freedom, and other improvements.
According to The New York Times, the strike—the first in the school’s history—is by three unions representing approximately 9,000 full- and part-time faculty. Further information about the strike is here.
Faculty, Teaching Assistants, Graduate Assistants, Postdoctoral Scholars, and all other workers represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT have been working without a contract for nearly nine months.
The quality of education, research, and public service at Rutgers depends on the quality of our working conditions, but these conditions have been impaired by salaries for PTLs and graduate students that have declined significantly when accounting for inflation and rising costs of living. Adjunct faculty receive unfair wages for the classes they teach, and their academic freedom is undermined by lack of job security. Graduate students receive far less than a living wage, which hampers their ability to research, teach, and learn, and threatens the quality and prestige of graduate programs at Rutgers, including the program in Philosophy. The loss of department-level authority over course scheduling continues to frustrate our ability to offer an effective curriculum, with no demonstrated benefit to students and demonstrable harm to faculty.
We, the undersigned faculty members of the Department of Philosophy, endorse the AAUP-AFT contract campaign demands, including those for fair salaries and stipends, job security for adjuncts, and departmental control over scheduling. We stand in solidarity with all Rutgers workers seeking a fairer and stronger institution, and affirm the right of workers to bargain collectively and to take collective action, including strike action, when necessary to attain just demands. We affirm the spirit of the resolution passed by the English Department, from which this statement is adapted.
The administration’s position is that it is illegal for Rutgers employees to strike and that “the university may go to court to maintain university operations and protect our students, patients, and staff from disruptions to their education, clinical care, and workplace. The university may seek an injunction in court to compel a return to normal activities.”
rescind your administration’s threat to use the power of injunction to punish, fine, and arrest workers taking job actions. At a time when we are experiencing a full frontal assault on critical histories of the American past, academic freedom, tenure, and the right to organize as public-sector workers, we ask you to work with the campus unions toward a just and fair contract.
The letter concludes:
We know you are familiar with these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoken on the eve of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers who were being threatened with court injunctions:
Now about injunctions: We have an injunction, and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.”…Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.
In an email, Rutgers philosophy professor Alexander Guerrero says:
I completely support the efforts of the union to improve the working conditions, compensation, and job security for all those who teach at Rutgers. I have also been disappointed in President Holloway’s misleading rhetoric concerning the legality of a strike and his willingness to be on the wrong side of history in attempting to prevent peaceful efforts to organize collectively to improve working conditions.
Those with further information about the strike are welcome to share it.
UPDATE (4/11/23): Faculty in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University Newark have unanimously endorsed the following statement:
The Philosophy Department at Rutgers-Newark fully supports the strike as well, and especially our unions’ core demands regarding the working conditions for part-time, non-tenure track faculty and graduate workers. Our unions are asking for a living wage for graduate workers, and pay parity, job security, and medical insurance for part time lecturers, among other things. Part-time lecturers’ current salaries are below a living wage when teaching 6 courses a year. If someone can obtain 6 courses a year, that is not enough to live on in northern New Jersey so adjuncts try to obtain other work leading them to travel around the state, which undermines their teaching. It is in Rutgers’s interest as a university to meet these demands. They have sufficient resources: according to the union, about $800M in unrestricted reserves, and the football coach is paid $4 million/year. This strike is for the sake of Rutgers and for fair working conditions in higher education more generally.
(via Katalin Balog)