After several months of negotiating and discussions, graduate student workers and other staff members officially began their strike this past Monday. The workers, represented by the Association of American University Professors (AAUP)-American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union (or Rutgers AAUP-AFT union), voted to go on strike in March, but had been threatening a strike since February.
Students said that some of their classes were canceled, despite the university’s attempt to keep classes open during the strike.
The Associated Press reported about the strike and claimed that it was the first labor strike at the university in its long history (spanning 257 years). The workers made the following demands throughout the process, which are:
- More job security, such as “longer contracts for faculty without tenure,” an improved process for promotions, renewable and multiyear contracts, as well as a full-time employment pathway for adjunct faculty
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, such as “salary equity across campuses,” more financial support for caregivers, and “equitable salary minimums”
- A “living wage” of at least $15 per hour, an extra funding year for graduate students who enrolled during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as five years of guaranteed funding for graduate students.
- Handing more control of teaching and research to faculty
- So-called “housing justice” for students, staff, faculty, or residents
- Placement of polling places on Rutgers’ campuses
- Termination of withholding transcripts due to student debt
Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway said the university issued a counter-offer to the union’s demands, such as a 12% salary increase for full-time faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants by the year 2025, as well as a 3% lump-sum payment to be paid out in the first two years of the yet-to-be-agreed-on contract.
AAUP-AFT and its labor union allies blamed the university administration for not meeting their demands, as they have been in negotiations since July 2022.