NEW BRUNSWICK - Calling for fair union contracts, a freeze on tuition and a $15-per-hour minimum wage on campus, hundreds of Rutgers faculty, staff and students rallied outside the Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, while others petitioned the governing body directly during its regularly scheduled meeting at Winants Hall.
Student groups and members of 23 unions representing more than 20,000 Rutgers workers whose contracts expire June 30 organized the protest, said Anthropology Professor David Hughes, Vice President of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union.
“Our students deserve more opportunities for education without incurring debt, while Rutgers workers deserve real raises and security that the university can amply afford,” Hughes said. “We are committed to public education as a right and call this a ‘fight for a Rutgers we deserve.’”
University officials would not comment on the protest.
"All issues related to employee contracts will be discussed at the negotiating table with the appropriate bargaining team representatives from the administration and the unions," said Dory Devlin, a university spokesperson.
Standing under sunny skies, students attending the rally said they are concerned with rising costs of education and mounting debt.
Ahan Sikri, a sophomore studying political science and economics, joined Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops, which is calling for a $15 minimum wage on campus, including student workers.
“It’s time for a revolution that serves Rutgers students of all backgrounds,” he said, referring to reaction to management’s marketing campaign of ‘Revolutionary Rutgers’ during its 250th Anniversary in 2016 that exposed a history of poor treatment of people of color.
Lucye Millerand, President of the Rutgers administrative staff union (URA-AFT local 1766), is concerned that Rutgers management fails to include campus stakeholders in planning resulting in massive waste due to misplaced priorities.
“Rutgers management is spending tens of millions on failed ventures like Big Ten football and a poorly executed Cornerstone financial technology system.” Meanwhile, she said workers in her 2,500-member union are taking home less pay than eight years ago.
“Contract bargaining has commenced for some unions, but the campus coalition has overarching concerns that must be addressed by the university’s official leadership prioritizing student and community issues, according to Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor of Media Studies, President AAUP-AFT.
“We deserve a Rutgers University that is affordable, accessible and a responsible community partner. This coalition is committed to working together to create a more equitable university and we will continue to raise our voices.”