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College classes across New Jersey halted as thousands of faculty walk out in historic strike

Professors and graduate student workers from three unions went on strike at multiple campuses Monday, impacting some 67,000 students in the New Jersey public university system.

Picket lines went up at campuses in New Brunswick/Piscataway, Newark and Camden after union officials made the decision to strike Sunday evening, The Associated Press reported. Their walk-off mobilized thousands of workers and is “the first such job action in the school’s 257-year history.”

The unions who made the call represent an estimated 9,000 full and part-time faculty, according to The New York Times.

Their collective walk off the job brought “classes and research at New Jersey’s flagship university to a halt,” the Times reported. Union officials had bargained “unsuccessfully” with university officials for almost a year, according to the Times.

“On our transformational proposals that would provide job security, a living wage for all, equal pay for equal work, and a fair pay increase, management still shows little interest in moving or reaching an agreement,” Rebecca Givan, president of one faculty union, Rutgers AAUP-AFT, wrote in a union website update in late February.

Union officials are also demanding that Rutgers freeze rents for students and staff and extend graduate research funding by one year for students affected by the pandemic, Gothamist reported.

On Friday, the Rutgers University Senate, which represents students, alumni, and staff and advises the president, “adopted a resolution urging [Rutgers University President Jonathan] Holloway to reach a fair deal with the unions and avoid a strike,” according to Gothamist.

Rutgers officials, including President Holloway, claimed the public sector strike is illegal according to existing case law, Politico reported.

However, “there is no state statute that prohibits strikes or work stoppages by public employees, including faculty employed by Rutgers,” according to the AAUP-AFT “2023 Strike FAQ.”

Politico reported that President Holloway “won’t rule out the possibility of legal action” nonetheless. Additionally, Holloway wrote in a letter to the Rutgers community that many concessions had already been granted to the workers at the bargaining table.

“Among the many things we have offered as part of the faculty union negotiations are enhanced compensation programs that would increase salaries across-the-board for full-time faculty by 12 percent by July 1, 2025,” Holloway wrote April 9. “Further, we have proposed increases of approximately 20 percent in the per-credit salary rate for part-time lecturers and for winter/summer instructors over the four years of the contract.”

MORE: Graduate employees clash with University of Michigan over strike


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