AAUP-BHSNJ FAQ on Union Contract Campaign Actions, 2023
- Why is AAUP-AFT taking a strike vote and what can we Legacy AAUP-BHSNJ do during a possible strike?
Last year, our AAUP-BHSNJ faculty (Legacy UMDNJ faculty ) voted to merge our union contract with AAUP-AFT (the legacy Rutgers faculty ). This petition was accepted by the Public Employee Relations Committee (PERC).
There will now be one AAUP-AFT union contract for all Rutgers faculty.
Unfortunately, given the slow negotiations and the offer of a 1% salary increase, the Legacy Rutgers AAUP-AFT is exploring a possible strike. However, many of our Legacy AAUP-BHSNJ faculty (with some exceptions, see question #4) will not have the opportunity to strike.
It is not known exactly when during the semester it may occur, or if it will necessarily occur at all. Legacy Rutgers AAUP-AFT is taking a vote February 28-March 10th. It could involve many thousands of our colleagues. Some of our members that work side-by-side with Legacy Rutgers AAUP-AFT may be asked to take part in the strike vote. This is does not bind anybody to strike, but it is helpful in gauging support for a strike.
A strike is a concerted work stoppage or slowdown. It might be a refusal to teach classes and perform other work for a predetermined number of days or for an indefinite length of time. A strike is a powerful way for a union and its members to win a fair contract, especially when management is refusing to take bargaining seriously.
Instead of a strike, we Legacy AAUP-BHSNJ are asking our faculty to refrain from performing voluntary non-essential work during the week or weeks of a strike, should one occur. Voluntary non-essential work is that which is extra work that you do that is not necessary to perform your minimum job duties. This differs from member-to-member but could include:
- Not attending grand rounds or similar lectures where faculty have missed such lectures before
- Attending school or other committees
- Teaching another faculty member’s course or grading their students’ assignments
- Holding events or conferences on campus, or off-campus Rutgers events
- Holding office hours online or in-person
- Attending non-essential meetings related to Rutgers’ administrative work
- Filing Rutgers reports and completing university compliance and professional training requirements
Faculty should also attend picket lines on off-hours nearest to them.
It is important to remember the purpose of all of this is to get a contract, not any particular action. However, now, that we are one contract, it is extremely important that we contribute our part during this campaign.
- Why are Legacy Rutgers faculty exploring a strike and why are we asking Legacy AAUP-BHSNJ to refrain from voluntary non-essential work in solidarity?
Put simply, to show management and the public that the university cannot function without our us. Our Union’s consistent message, since our last contract expired on July 30, 2022, has been that we are fighting for quality, affordable public higher education; that we are seeking decent compensation that keeps up with the cost of living; a stop to never ending increases to faculty workload; basic job security and treatment. We are standing up against the wasteful spending and misguided priorities of the Holloway administration and its hollow “beloved community” rhetoric.
You can see the contract proposals here https://rutgersaaup.org/contract-2022-resource-center/ (AAUP-AFT) and here (legacy AAUP-BHSNJ) www.onerutgersfaculty.org
We all deserve to work in an environment that respects pay equity and provides fair treatment – an environment that affords us the opportunity to be excellent healers, scientists, and accomplished scholars.
- When would this happen?
If Legacy Rutgers AAUP-AFT decides to strike it would be sometime before the end of the semester. Stay tuned to your email and phone for messaging.
- What should faculty do who work side-by-side with Legacy AAUP-AFT members?
Given that our some of our members work side-by-side with Legacy AAUP-AFT whom are also faculty in the same school, they may be asked to participate in further union activities such as participating in the strike vote. Participating in the vote would help gauge support for a strike. The purpose of the vote is to give our union the power to declare such a strike even if certain members do not ultimately strike.
If there are questions, members can email the union at email@example.com for guidance.
Everyone is working together to achieve a better contract. The more faculty members are involved, and the more we commit fully to particular strategies, the shorter any strike may be, if taking place at all.
As stated above, there will be faculty picket lines and helping with preparations and support for the pickets in order to make the strike as successful as possible. We all care very deeply about the quality of education here at Rutgers, and our decision to do anything which creates an inconvenience is not something anyone takes for granted. By showing up on the line, even during off-hours, we are redirecting energy to ensure that we have the best chance of winning a contract that will protect us and our students in the long run.
- Could management retaliate against me for taking any action?
As we are asking most members to only refrain from voluntary work, it is unlikely there is any opportunity for discipline. Our solidarity in action can be our best defense. So the more faculty that do something, the harder it is to single any one person out. In addition, our Union will vigorously defend all who either participate in or support any union action.
- Are public sector job actions against the law in New Jersey?
The State Constitution and the NJ Employer-Employee Relations Act are silent on this issue. There is no state statute that prohibits solidarity actions, strikes or work stoppages by public employees, including faculty and staff employed by Rutgers. NJ public employees have gone on strike at least 36 times in the past 30 years. Although there is no state statute that bars the actions, in a few instances, courts in New Jersey have issued injunctions against walkouts by public employees, unlike recent campus worker strikes in California and Illinois.
We also have a no-strike clause in our current union contract, but such clauses only apply during the life of the agreement. Since our current contract is expired, it no longer applies.
Of note is that from 2018-2019, teachers struck in conservatively governed states including West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Although public worker work stoppages are unlawful in those states, there was no attempt to enforce the law against the many thousands of educators who took part in walkouts those years. We have strength in numbers.
- I’m concerned about participating in because I am not a US citizen/on a visa.
Our Union will not ask vulnerable faculty and grads to be in harm’s way, particularly faculty and grads who are here on visas (even if visa holders do possess the right to take various actions). In addition, our Union will vigorously defend all who either participate in or support any union action.
- Would this harm our students, research, and patients?
No. We are not asking for anything that would interfere with the delivery of healthcare.
No harm to research or essential work.
No, there will no long-term harm to students. They may though face a short-term inconvenience. Many students are organizing already to support our contract demands because they know that our demands are for the good of our entire community. Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. We are fighting to end precarity among instructors of all ranks, which means that students will benefit. Pushing back against the corporate university and defending public education is an important teachable moment for our students. If you would like a student-facing powerpoint slide to add to your lectures please contact firstname.lastname@example.org