NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A group of Rutgers’ largest unions have unveiled their demands for the 2018 contracts, set to expire this coming summer and cover 20,000 of the university's unionized employees.
The union demands call for affordable health care, pay equity, job security, the right to organize and a more welcoming campus. The largest percentage of the school’s employees are represented by the AAUP-AFT, although other local union chapters are chiming in, such as the Communication Workers of America and the Union of Rutgers Administrators.
Rutgers employs just over 20,000 unionized employees and about 8,200 non-unionized employees, across the Camden, Newark and New Brunswick campuses.
“All of our contracts expire at the same time,” said AAUP-AFT Lead Organizer Joe Richard. “We can coordinate our bargaining demands collectively. We want to be together as much as possible and collaborate on everything as much as we can.”
The university is tight-lipped about the upcoming negotiations.
“We are not at the table yet,” said university spokesperson Dory Devlin. “Both the unions and the university are preparing for negotiations, which will likely begin early in the new year.”
One of the contract proposals calls for eliminating Chapter 78, Richard said, a Gov. Chris Christie-legacy rule in the state which meant public sector employees couldn’t negotiate their own healthcare costs.
"What they’re paying is a huge percentage of their actual premium, so the people at the bottom of the pay scale pay a very large amount of their paycheck,” Richard said.
The union would also be pushing for adjuncts and part-time lecturers (PTL) to be eligible for the university’s health plan.
“There are PTL’s who are teaching part time, but if you add up all their course loads, teaching at Essex County College and Montclair State University, they should be full time employees,” said Sherry Wolf, an AAUP-AFT senior organizer.
The union is also hoping for a path to full-time employment for those who work part-time at Rutgers.
“Why should someone have to reapply for their job from semester after semester and not know if they have secure employment at Rutgers,” Wolf said. Hopefully, Wolf added, employees would have “presumptive tenure,” meaning the job protections enjoyed by tenured employees.
Union officials are also for a campus-wide $15 minimum wage for all workers, which would include student employees.
The push for the $15 minimum wage stems from the campaign from the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
“You also have issues over pay equity, race and gender equity issues,” Wolf added.
The demands also call for the university to respect any non-unionized workers desire to unionize, Richard said.
“Through the recent merger of the medical school, there are thousands of people in the medical school who now fit in their job descriptions that they should be unionized,” Richard said.
“What we’re asking for is a pledge to neutrality that they wouldn’t intimidate people,” Richard added.
Contract negotiations are set to start at the start of the spring semester, in mid to late January. If union and university officials do not reach an agreement by the end of the fiscal year, that is, June 30, 2018, the contract which was signed June 30, 2014 will remain in effect.