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, though students said some had been canceled due to the strike. Union officials decided Sunday night to go on strike, citing a stalemate in contract talks that have been ongoing since July. Faculty members 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 would continue performing essential research and patient care, but would curtail duties that don’t impact patient health and safety.
Officials also said negotiations would continue Monday. The two sides were scheduled to meet at Democratic Gov. Gov. Phil Murphy’s office at the Statehouse around noon.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said Sunday that he believed the two sides were close to an agreement. Union officials, though, said an agreement didn’t appear near.
“To say that this is deeply disappointing would be an understatement,” Holloway said.
Union leaders say they are demanding salary increases, better job security for adjunct faculty and guaranteed funding for graduate 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.