Rutgers unions vote to ratify new contracts

Matthew Fazelpoor//May 9, 2023

Rutgers University New Brunswick

Rutgers University-New Brunswick - EDWIN J. TORRES/GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

Rutgers University New Brunswick

Rutgers University-New Brunswick - EDWIN J. TORRES/GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

Rutgers unions vote to ratify new contracts

Matthew Fazelpoor//May 9, 2023

It took nearly a year of tough negotiations and the first strike in school history, but three unions representing 9,000 Rutgers University educators, researchers, clinicians and librarians overwhelmingly voted to ratify new contracts with the school May 8.

As NJBIZ reported, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors; the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, which represents adjunct faculty; and AAUP-BHSNJ, which represents health science faculty in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences facilities, announced Monday that some 93% of members who cast ballots voted yes to ratify a total of five tentative agreements with the university.

More details on the agreement, the terms and the timeline of how things arrived at this point can be found in the story that was published in this week’s NJBIZ.

While the three unions bargained together, they negotiated five separate contracts. The full results of those votes were released Monday:

  • 92% were for the contract covering some 6,250 full-time faculty and graduate workers represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT and AAUP-BHSNJ (this agreement includes faculty in AAUP-BHSNJ for the first time.)
  • 97% for the contract covering some 2,800 adjunct faculty represented by the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union.
  • 95% for the contract covering some 750 postdoctoral associates and fellows represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
  • 100% for the contract covering 22 Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Counselors represented by Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
  • 97% for a separate contract covering full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, graduate workers and others who teach Winter and Summer session courses at Rutgers.


“This vote is the culmination of months of intense efforts by so many people who walked the picket lines and organized with their colleagues,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “Because of this commitment by our members, we made major gains in these contracts, especially for the most vulnerable and lowest paid of the people we represent. We didn’t win everything we wanted. But what we did achieve is a testament to all of us, and we’re proud of it.”

Howie Swerdloff, an executive board member for the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, said that this overwhelmingly positive vote across all job categories shows how unified the three unions are—and how much everyone gained as a result.

“We bargained together, walked the picket line together, and won together,” said Swerdloff.

“We are pleased that the university and our faculty union members have agreed to four-year contracts that provide substantial salary increases for full-time faculty, graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and others,” Rutgers University told NJBIZ in a statement. “With the union members’ ratification announced today, the approved contracts also include new compensation programs for our medical school faculty and provide both salary increases and job security for our part-time lecturers, who will now be referred to as ‘lecturers.’”

We bargained together, walked the picket line together, and won together.
— Howie Swerdloff, executive board member, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union

Rutgers also pointed out that the contract provisions will be retroactive.

“Eligible employees, covered by these agreements, will receive payment of retroactive pay increases back to July 1, 2022,” the university said.

The three unions note that they also voted in favor of a proposal to ask those they represent for voluntary contributions to the Rutgers Beloved Community Fund, one of several social justice initiatives the unions say they proposed to benefit Rutgers students and the communities surrounding the university’s campuses. The fund won a commitment from Gov. Phil Murphy of $600,000 in recurring annual funding. But, the unions say that the university administration backed out of an earlier commitment to contribute to it.

“The unions intend to follow through on their initiative with voluntary contributions to add to the state funds – which will be administered by a newly established 501 C3 organization – and to continue to pressure the Rutgers administration to match their commitment,” the unions said Monday.

“Rutgers has strengthened its commitment to financially help students in need in recent years and will continue to build on a robust program to aid students in need,” the university said in response.

More work to do

The unions also are vowing to support more than 6,000 workers in nine other unions representing staff at Rutgers who are still without contracts.

“We are proud to stand with our AAUP colleagues as they settle a contract that provides real benefits for thousands of their members,” said Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT, which represents 2,500 administrative staff. “URA-AFT continues to fight for a fair contract that provides raises with longevity pay that recognizes their contribution, recognition for our essential workers, job security and a path to career advancement, and a permanent policy for telework that is not at the whim of management.”

“There is no excuse for the administration to drag our negotiations any longer; our staff colleagues deserve a fair contract,” Rutgers AAUP-AFT, Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union and AAUP-BHSNJ said Monday.

“We are looking forward to resolving all outstanding non-faculty contracts as quickly as possible,” the university said.

Rutgers added that it is grateful to all those whose hard work contributed to reaching the agreements that were ratified Monday.

“And we thank Gov. Murphy, his staff, and state-appointed mediators who helped the university and the unions resolve differences on key issues and enable us all once again to focus on the academic enterprise that is the heart of this remarkable university,” Rutgers said.

“This is a new moment for higher ed labor around the country,” said Todd Wolfson, general vice president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “Other unions representing graduate workers and faculty organized, struck, and won strong contracts, inspiring us to fight for more. And now we’ve contributed to the largest strike wave in the history of public higher education. We have a vision of a public university that works for our students, our communities, and everyone who works there – and we’ve taken important steps toward achieving it.”